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Thursday July 12, 2007 9:00 PM

Power Surge

Rockets acquire Scola, Butler by shipping Spanoulis to Spurs

Damien Pierce Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- The Rockets searched the predraft camps and free agency market for the perfect fit at power forward.

On Thursday night, they found what they were looking for about 200 miles down the road.

Seeking more athleticism and size at power forward, the Rockets acquired Argentina star Luis Scola along with reserve center Jackie Butler from San Antonio Thursday night by sending second-year point guard Vassilis Spanoulis, a 2009 second-round pick and cash considerations to the Spurs.

Widely considered one of Europe's best players, Scola was a second round pick by the Spurs in the 2002 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward has been playing with the Spanish team Tau Ceramica for the past seven years because he was never able to work out a deal with San Antonio.

The Rockets are optimistic that they'll be able to bring him to the NBA -- and that he might be the answer they were looking for at power forward.

"Luis is one of the top five international players not currently in the NBA,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. β€œHe adds experience and toughness at a position of need on our roster and is an NBA-ready player with a very high basketball I.Q. We expect him to have an immediate impact on our team.”

Since the Rockets are thin at power forward with training camp a little more than two months away, Scola could potentially be a starter in Houston. The team has two other power forwards on the roster in Chuck Hayes and rookie Carl Landry, although Hayes hasn't yet re-signed with the team.

During his seven seasons with Tau Ceramica, Scola averaged 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He has the post-up skills, size and athleticism that the Rockets were craving in a power forward heading into the offseason. He was also instrumental in helping guide Argentina to the country's first-ever gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.

Butler, meanwhile, is expected to provide depth behind Yao Ming. The 6-10, 260-pound center averaged 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in 11 games with San Antonio last season. Despite playing in only 69 career games with two different teams, he is believed to still have plenty of upside.

Spanoulis leaves Houston after one season. He played in 31 games, averaging 2.7 points and .9 assists in 8.8 minutes. He was expected to remain in Greece for the upcoming season instead of returning to the NBA.