PROJECTED STARTINGFIVE with 2006-07 statistics
PF LUIS SCOLA(R)
C YAO MING
KEY BENCH PLAYERS:F Chuck Hayes, G-F Luther Head, C Dikembe Mutombo, G Mike James*, G SteveFrancis* *New acquisition (R) Rookie (Euroleague stats)
Record: 52-30 (4thin West) Points scored: 97.0 (17th in NBA) Points allowed: 92.1 (3rd) Coach:Rick Adelman (first season with Rockets)
As a graduate ofMIT's Sloan School of Management, new Rockets general manager Daryl Morey cancompute the intrinsic value of an equity derivative and find synergies in ahorizontal merger of equals. But this query, posed after a recent practice,stumped the 33-year-old brainiac: Which current or former NBA player does hisnew power forward, Luis Scola, play like? "That's a good question,"said Morey. Perplexed, he turned to his team of scouts, who all shook theirheads. Finally he said, "Maybe Vlade Divac with a better jumper? Scola'spretty unique. That's why we can't come up with an answer."
Morey and newcoach Rick Adelman hope opponents also have trouble finding an answer forScola, the 6' 9", 245-pound Argentine import who for years has beenregarded as one of the best--if not the best--players not in the NBA. A toughand active low-post scorer with plus passing skills, the 27-year-old Scolaplayed nine of the last 10 years in Spain, earning league MVP honors with TauCeràmica in 2004-05 and '06-07.
Scola--whom Moreyacquired in July for next to nothing from the Spurs, who had drafted him in '02but 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-leggedYao Ming in the power-forward-loaded Western Conference. Offensively Scola hasthe tools to contribute in Adelman's motion offense; he scored 43 points in twogames against the U.S. in this summer's FIBA Americas tournament and was namedthe event's MVP. The question is whether Scola can guard the likes of TimDuncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Boozer et al., on a nightly basis.
"There's goingto be an adjustment period, no question about it," Scola says. "But Ialso think that if you work hard enough, you can get anything youwant."
An opposing team'sscout sizes up the Rockets
I question whetherYao Ming should play the high post in new coach Rick Adelman's offense. Yaowill be able to go there and hit a guy cutting or make the shot, but why take aguy that big away from the basket as a rebounder? Defensively, Adelman is morelikely to use Yao as a one-man zone, playing behind his man and protecting therim 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 abouthim envisioning his retirement and planning his future after basketball. I wantto hear the guy focused on winning a championship. Does he have the passion towin, and will he get down and dirty enough to get it done? . . . It's strangethat Steve Francis is entering his ninth year and we're still not sure who orwhat he is. Hopefully Francis is looking at this as his last chance, and he'lldo everything he can to fit into what the team needs--in which case, he can bea huge asset and salvage his career.
Long-range shooterLuther Head scored 60.9% of his points last season on three-pointers, thehighest percentage among players with at least 500 points. Teammate ShaneBattier ranked third at 56.8%.
Scola is not afraid to do the dirty work to help his team win.
Yao's play down low is too important to pull him away from the basket on afrequent basis, even in Adelman's motion offense.