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As a graduate of MIT's Sloan School of Management, new Rockets general manager Daryl Morey can compute the intrinsic value of an equity derivative and find synergies in a horizontal merger of equals. But this query, posed after a recent practice, stumped the 33-year-old brainiac: Which current or former NBA player does his new power forward, Luis Scola, play like? "That's a good question," said Morey. Perplexed, he turned to his team of scouts, who all shook their heads. Finally he said, "Maybe Vlade Divac with a better jumper? Scola's pretty unique. That's why we can't come up with an answer."
Morey and new coach Rick Adelman hope opponents also have trouble finding an answer for Scola, the 6' 9", 245-pound Argentine import who for years has been regarded as one of the best--if not the best--players not in the NBA. A tough and active low-post scorer with plus passing skills, the 27-year-old Scola played nine of the last 10 years in Spain, earning league MVP honors with Tau Cer�mica in 2004-05 and '06-07.
Scola--whom Morey acquired in July for next to nothing from the Spurs, who had drafted him in '02 but didn't need another power forward--fills the biggest void for the Rockets, who for years have needed an active big man to play opposite the heavy-legged Yao Ming in the power-forward-loaded Western Conference. Offensively Scola has the tools to contribute in Adelman's motion offense; he scored 43 points in two games against the U.S. in this summer's FIBA Americas tournament and was named the event's MVP. The question is whether Scola can guard the likes of Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Boozer et al., on a nightly basis.
"There's going to be an adjustment period, no question about it," Scola says. "But I also think that if you work hard enough, you can get anything you want."
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Rockets
I question whether Yao Ming should play the high post in new coach Rick Adelman's offense. Yao will be able to go there and hit a guy cutting or make the shot, but why take a guy that big away from the basket as a rebounder? Defensively, Adelman is more likely to use Yao as a one-man zone, playing behind his man and protecting the rim rather than wandering out of his area of comfort to blitz pick-and-rolls. . . . I love Tracy McGrady as a player, but what bothers me is when I read about him envisioning his retirement and planning his future after basketball. I want to hear the guy focused on winning a championship. Does he have the passion to win, and will he get down and dirty enough to get it done? . . . It's strange that Steve Francis is entering his ninth year and we're still not sure who or what he is. Hopefully Francis is looking at this as his last chance, and he'll do everything he can to fit into what the team needs--in which case, he can be a huge asset and salvage his career.