Rockets.com Staff Writer
HOUSTON -- Shortly before the NBA Draft, Rockets coach Rick Adelman started studying film on Luis Scola when he learned that there was a remote possibility that his team could lure the power forward away from San Antonio.
The coach didn't need long to assess what the shaggy-haired power forward from Argentina could potentially bring to his lineup.
"What I saw on tape was someone who's always moving and always active," Adelman said. "He plays hard. That's what really impressed me."
And that, in a nutshell, is what the Rockets are seeking from their latest addition.
Scola, one of Europe's best players over the past five seasons, signed a contract with the Rockets Tuesday, less than a week after the Spurs traded him to Houston. The deal will become effective following the buyout of his contract with the Spanish team Tau Ceramica of the Euroleague.
The Rockets sorely needed help at power forward heading into the offseason, having only one potential returning player at the position in Chuck Hayes. That's the void that Scola will fill.
Besides potentially becoming the team's starting power forward, the Argentina star is expected to bring more toughness and offensive skills to the frontcourt. He was a two-time MVP of the Spanish League and helped his country win its first-ever gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.
"Luis obviously fills a position of need," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "We thought he was the best guy out there. He has size and experience and he's been a winner at every level. He's someone that we think can come in and contribute right away to the team."
The Spurs selected Scola with a second-round pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, but were unable to sign him because of a large buyout.
Since then, the Spurs were seeking a trade partner, preferring a team outside the Southwest Division. Unable to find a desirable deal beyond the Southwest, San Antonio sent the draft rights to Scola along with reserve center Jackie Butler to Houston in exchange for Greek guard Vassilis Spanoulis and a 2009 second-round pick.
The trade helped give the 27-year old forward an opportunity to finally realize his dream of playing in the NBA.
"I'm really happy about how things turned out," said Scola, who had been waiting five years to make the move to the NBA after being chosen by the Spurs. "I'm thankful with the Spurs because, in the end, I think they helped me with this deal.
"This has been my dream since I was a little kid. When I first started playing for the international team against NBA players, I could see that I was coming closer. It becomes a goal."
The Rockets suspect that the power forward will need some time to adjust his game to a new league and team.
But they also know this much: Scola is a fairly polished prospect who could help the team advance in the playoffs. He's extremely athletic and tough with good instincts. With his passing skills and a strong all-around offensive game, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward should fit perfectly into Adelman's system.
The coach expects Scola to compliment Rockets star center Yao Ming as an active rebounder and scorer in the paint.
"He's going to be a great attribute to Yao," Adelman said. "The more passers and more scorers that you have on the floor, the harder you are to defend. He really fits that bill. I just thinks it's going to be easy for him. I showed him a tape earlier of what we like to do and he fits right in there. The biggest adjustment is probably going to be at the defensive end, which it is for every young person in the NBA."
Scola was already looking forward to playing alongside Tracy McGrady and Yao.
"When they told me I was heading to Houston, that was the first thing that I was thinking about," Scola said. "It's great to play with them. They're superstars. They're going to make basketball easier. I have to take this chance and use it."
Adelman is certainly looking forward to adding Scola to that mix.
While he said it's far too early to pencil the power forward into the starting lineup, the coach believes Scola will contribute right away.
He watched enough tape to know that much.
"He can step in and be an effective player for us right away," Adelman said.