Perhaps you’re not aware yet, but the most successful Argentinian basketball player not named Manu is a Phoenix Sun now. He has a new team, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be seeing anything different from Argentina’s most efficient forward. He’s still featuring some crafty post play, a “soft as a pillow” touch around the rim, and the occasional floppy-haired finish on a fast break.
We spoke with Luis Scola at his new home in Phoenix about the new Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the differences between the Euro game (where he spent seven seasons in Spain) and the NBA, the ambivalence of Scola’s countrymen towards soccer God, Lionel Messi, running into a former soccer teammate in his native Argentina and more.
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Dime: So we just checked your Twitter feed, and it looks like you just got Call of Duty: Black Ops 2?
Luis Scola: (chuckling) Yeah, I just got it an hour ago.
Dime: Nice. Do you spend a lot of time playing Call of Duty? Do you play with your kids?
LS: My kids are too young to play. For them, I have the kids games. I don’t let them play the Playstation too much. So I tried [the Call of Duty], but after they did the upgrade and loaded and all that, [the kids] just got home. So I didn’t really get a chance to play it, and I’m gonna wait a little bit before getting to it tonight. I do play when I have time, like an hour a day or an hour every two days. I like it.
Dime: Is it the only type of video game you play? Like do you play any basketball games?
LS: I used to play a lot of NBA 2K, but I don’t play much anymore. Most of the time when I play, it’s either Call of Duty or probably some soccer. I’ll play sporting games with the kids, but when I play by myself, I play Call of Duty or things like that.
Dime: When we play, we do the multiplayer mode with friends, so how do you play? Do you go online or anything?
LS: I think the most fun is when you play it with somebody you know. But in Argentina, there aren’t a lot of people that play Call of Duty. They play soccer or basketball or one of the sports games. So I really don’t have a lot of players to play the game with. In the NBA, most of the guys play Xbox, and I have the PS3. So I really don’t play with friends. I just go online and play with strangers, which I think is a little bit less fun. Hopefully I can get a couple friends to play Call of Duty, which would be a lot more fun.
Dime: You don’t have any Suns teammates that play Call of Duty?
LS: For sure. I know Jared Dudley plays, and I know coach Majerle plays. I’ve only been here a couple months, so I didn’t really talk to them about it too much. They play Xbox, so maybe I’ll have to start playing Xbox.
Dime: Well the Xbox and PS3 controllers are different, so that might throw you off a little bit.
LS: I have an Xbox from when I went to watch Call of Duty, and they sent me a copy. I’m just used to the PS3 control. Most of the people play the Xbox, but I’m used to playing with the PS3 and once you starting playing a specific way, it’s difficult to change.
Dime: How are things going in Phoenix. Have you found a home or a spot to spend the season?
LS: Yeah, I have a house, and I’ve got my whole family completely settled here in Phoenix. Yeah, I’m happy. I think it’s a good place. I’m having fun. We’re trying to win some games, we lost a couple games in the beginning of the season, and I wish we hadn’t, but I think we’re going to have a good team. The city’s great. The weather is awesome. I’m happy here, and hopefully we’ll have a good team and everything will be awesome.
Dime: On that note, you won last night and you guys looked good. You opened the season really well. Do you think you’re a legitimate playoff threat?
LS: Actually I do. For most of the games, except one – the Miami game – we’ve played well for three quarters, and then, for some reason, we lost concentration and we didn’t come back. We lost two that we could have won. I think we need to work on being more consistent. Do what we need to do for 48 minutes. But that takes time because of maturity. We need to mature as a team because we have a lot of young players playing together. I think it will take some time to get there, but once we do, we’ll be a good team. I think we’re gonna be good, it’s just a matter of how fast we’re gonna be good.
Dime: It’s a lot of new teammates and a new city in Phoenix. We know you’re 32, Luis, but this is just your sixth NBA season. You’re one of the oldest players on the team. Are you looking to be a leader in the locker room?
LS: Well being older always puts you a position where you’re more respected and [you're] listened to more as a teammate. I am, like you say, the second-oldest player on the team. And yeah, it’s a big deal for a professional to do the right thing, and being a leader, leading by example. I think a little bit, I’m trying to do that on the court too, and we can make it a winning team. But yes, every year that goes by, I’m a little bit older than the guys. The guys that come into the NBA are young. So, there are guys on the team that are 10-11 years younger than me, so there is definitely a role for me, to do the right thing and be a veteran.
Dime: That must be strange for you, to be with guys that much younger…
LS: It is what it is. I hope to play for a few more years, so the more I play the more the difference will be with the new players coming in.
Dime: You’re still young though. You had played overseas for seven years in Spain. How would you compare playing in the Euroleague versus playing in the NBA?
LS: There is a very high talent level in the NBA, and there’s also a very high level of athleticism. The Euroleague is ultra competitive and it’s a lot of fun to play there; it was a good experience. But I think one of the biggest differences between the two of them is the rules. The guys in the NBA are more athletic and more talented and bigger. The rules allow the paint to always be clear and the court is more open. In Europe… the lane is a lot more clogged. It’s a lot more difficult to move stations. I think the rules make a big difference between the two leagues and the style of players makes the style of play a lot more different too. But both leagues know how to play.
Dime: We’ve always noticed you have a ton of low post moves. Growing up, we know you hadn’t played organized ball until you were 15, so what did you do to develop the skills that a lot of big guys don’t have?
LS: Well, I always played basketball and I never really played any other sports. I’m not very athletic, so I had to find a way to be productive. The only way it worked for me was to try a lot of moves and try to work on the touch of my outside shot. Just try to make up for the athleticism I don’t have. I’m 32, so I’m not going to change the way I play, it’s what I do. I’m happy with the results and I’ll continue to play that way. It’s the best way for me to be productive. If I try and out-run them or out-jump them, I’m gonna lose, so I might as well try something different.
Dime: We think you’ve been more than successful, but we did notice you seem to antagonize guys and get under their skin. Is that something you do on purpose, to try and irritate your opponents?
LS: No, I never try anything on anybody. I just play hard. I – actually – I don’t like it. Games where there’s a confrontation physically, I don’t like it; I try and avoid it at all costs. I need to play hard because it’s the best way for me to succeed and sometimes, you know, you just get tangled up, but I don’t like it.