What if I told you...
that the Houston Rockets Power Forward position produced the following per48 stats for a season:
32.3pts, 13.7rbs, 3.3ast, 1.2blk, 1.5stl with a 79% FT percentage and 59% True Shooting?
That level of production from the nearly moribund Power Forward spot might seem unbelievable these days. Back in distant yore days of 2009-2010 that great season was compiled by one of the best (if not the best) platoons in Rockets history: Luis Scola, and Carl Landry. I believed at the time they were the most devastating combination at the position in the NBA. If not that, then surely the most purely enjoyable expression of the art of playing power forward as it was understood at the time.
Luis Scola didn’t enter the NBA until he was 27. He was a 2002 second round draft pick of the San Antonio Spurs but didn’t play an NBA season until 2007-8. Scola was a recognized talent before he entered the NBA, known as a stalwart of the Argentine national team that defeated Team USA and won gold in the Greece 2004 Olympics, among other accomplishments. He was a star in Europe, playing mostly in Spain, but could never join fellow Argentinian standout Manu Ginobili on the Spurs due to buyout constraints with his team in Europe.
Daryl Morey got him for a bit more than a song, but not much. The Rockets traded Greek international Vasilis Spanoulis, a second round pick, and Knicks favorite, Cash Considerations Jr. to the Spurs for him.
Scola, notable for long straight black locks, hard-nosed play and general affability off the court, stood a rugged 6’9” 240lbs. He was a useful player almost immediately.
Not since Kevin McHale played for the Boston Celtics had the NBA seen such a complete scoring bag of tricks at power forward. These days if a post-player (assuming such still exist) has a move and counter-move in the post he’s considered skilled. Scola had at least five effective close-in moves, and counters off all of them.
Like McHale, Scola was also an irritant, physically bothering and pressuring an opponent on both offense and defense, nearly constantly. This irritation grew too much for Kevin Love one night and he literally pushed Scola down and stomped on his face. He apologized later, and then talked about his own problems, so that made it ok. I personally never saw Scola do anything dirty, but I saw him do annoying things almost every minute of a game.
Scola was fantastic defensive rebounder, but not much on the offensive glass.
Luis was something of an iron man as well. He played 82 games in five of nine NBA seasons (remember, beginning at 27) and fewer than 74 games in only one (66). I don’t count his final season, as he was almost out of the NBA by then. Scola is still playing by the way, at age 39, for Yao Ming’s Shanghai Sharks.
Never the most athletic player, Scola thrived off a combination of power and guile rarely seen these days. Look for yourself:
In today’s NBA it is a bit like seeing a master blacksmith work. They don’t make them like that anymore.
For myself, anyway, Luis Scola was always a joy to watch, and the way his Rockets career ended when he was amnestied for a Dwight Howard trade that never materialized was a blow to my fandom. The cap space gained was part of the reason the Rockets were able to sign James Harden, however, so the rest is history, I suppose.
But what about the other half of Scolandry, the Most Fun Rockets PF Ever?
Since this is mostly about Luis Scola, we’ll cover Landry in brief. He was basically the opposite of Scola. About the same size, where Scola was crafty, Landry could jump out of the gym. Where Scola never dunked, Landry dunked on everyone. This isn’t to say that Landry had no skills, he was very skilled, but he played a different game than Scola, and in 2009-2010 their platoon simply overwhelmed opposition.
A game would start with Scola pounding an opponent in the post, and when he needed a rest (Scola never seemed to actually need to rest) in would come Carl Landry, with blazing speed, hops, deadly short range shot, and athleticism to overwhelm a weary defender.
Landry was eventually moved to Sacramento where he played well, and sparked a brief Landry-based interest in the Kings for me. I could happily write many, many, more words about Carl.
There have been better Rockets, but for me, no more beloved Rockets than Luis Scola and Carl Landry. Between them they formed one of the best power forwards in the NBA, back when the designation meant something besides “stands in the corner to shoot threes and gets rebounds”.
Who is the best Rocket in this series of articles?
This poll is closed
Somewhere Dirk is still complaining about Carl Landry’s tooth being in his elbow.