In a recent article earlier this week, Rockets.com produced a topic on toughness, specifically citing Luis Scola as a prime example of a brand not thrown around lightly in the NBA.
This certainly caught my attention. For all his skills, Scola does not strike me as “tough.” In fact, the word that many choose to describe him – “finesse” – is the polar opposite of that.
The article went on to particularly emphasize the incident between Scola and Minnesota forward Kevin Love earlier this season, when Love stomped on Scola’s face in a third-quarter incident, one that looked mighty intentional. The latter offered no retaliation in any way, however, and fans and others cried out that he should have done so; that letting a peer essentially walk over you was by no means tough and spoke more of Scola than it did of Love.
The article argues that Scola’s non-retaliation was, in fact, “tough.” The write-up employs a defensive tone (ironic considering its subject), as if trying to make the case that Scola is indeed tough when stats and plain watching of the games suggest otherwise. Rookie forward Chandler Parsons is quoted extensively in support of Scola’s “toughness,” though I find it odd that more players weren’t talked to. Not only should it have been easy to find another Rocket praising the efforts of a teammate and such a likable guy as Scola, but if Parsons is correct in his assessment, surely another player or two could vouch as well.
It’s also interesting that head coach Kevin McHale – whom the article touts as a great example of toughness and a strong advocate of the “no excuse” mantra – is also not quoted in regard to his starting power forward. It is, I agree, a great topic. But it’s incredibly one-sided (obviously), and there need to be more voices heard, because I get the feeling that if players were truthful, “tough” would be one word not associated with Scola.
Obviously I don’t agree that Scola is tough. He is a finesse power forward. Not only is that blatant by watching him play the game, but the numbers certainly support that as well. Let’s take a look.
Among power forwards who play 25 or more minutes per game, Scola is 25th in total rebounding rate (percentage of total rebounds grabbed by a player during his time on the court). His is a 12.o, just a notch above the likes of Antawn Jamison (11.4) and Boris Diaw (10.9), and behind such guys like Drew Gooden, Ryan Anderson, Al Harrington and Trevor Booker. Not good.
Among that same classification (power forwards who play 25 or more minutes per game), Scola is 29th in defensive plays (a total of charges, blocks and steals per game) at 1.14. Think about that. Let that sink in. His contribution as a defender as far as getting a block or a steal or a charge barely adds up to more than 1.o per game. For someone who plays 31.1 minutes per contest, that’s horrible.
And here’s my biggest case against Scola: 9.8 of his 13.6 field goal attempts this season come beyond nine feet; 4.7 come from 16-23 feet. That doesn’t speak to someone’s “toughness.” He is a jump-shooting big. A very good one at that, yet one nonetheless. He plies his trade well away from the rim and the paint, where games are often dictated and mostly won or loss.
When I think of toughness at the power forward spot, I think of somebody who can do the little things that lead to wins. Fight to no end for that 50/50 ball. Rotate strong and put a body on people who dare come near the rim. Never lose position or ground, especially defensively. To be fair, today’s NBA game lacks toughness. No doubt. But that doesn’t excuse Scola, who is a poor rebounder, even poorer defender and someone who lives on outside jump shots.
When I think of toughness, I think of guys like Patrick Patterson. Marcus Camby. Courtney Lee. Heck, even Parsons. Guys who have a “no-holds-barred” mentality and will scrap, scratch and claw for wins. Guys who sacrifice themselves for the good of the team.
I have a great amount of respect for Scola. Let that be understood. This is not to rag on him or to “hate”; it’s to debate a point that I believe to be very off-base. He’s a stand-up individual with great skill, undoubtedly a tough cover because of his knack of offensive weapons. But he is not tough. He is not hard-nosed. He is not someone who thrives off being in the trenches.
So I will leave with this: A link to the Rockets.com article here so you can read for yourself, and a question: As a Rockets fan, do you think Scola is tough?
And if so, how?