Want the short answer? Fine: the Rockets did overpay to keep Luis Scola. He's not quite worth nearly $10 million per season at his age, and while money may be one issue with the contract, the other relates to the length. Scola will be 35 when the contract ends: do you think he will still be playing at a high level by then?
Well, do ya, punk?
Fact is, none of the above matters. You think the New York Yankees ever worry about overspending? Not to put the Rockets in that same category financially, but let's be clear on something: Rockets owner Les Alexander has been willing to write a fat check to keep Scola before this process ever began. GM Daryl Morey reiterated this sentiment in his postseason press conference back in May. Retaining Scola was the primary in-house goal of the Rockets' offseason. If a little extra cash was needed to keep the big man, so be it.
Many productive veterans tend to be over-extended late in their careers. Scola's case is no different. Paul Pierce's lucrative contract will end when he is 36. So will Dirk Nowitzki's. Joe Johnson is on the books for nearly $20 million per year until he is 35. Though the latter example may be a bit extreme, you get the idea. Good teams take any action necessary to keep their cornerstone players, period.
Scola might not be our best talent, but he is certainly our most consistent player. To add, the way Scola plays doesn't necessarily indicate a huge drop-off in production by the time he reaches the end of his deal. He doesn't put a lot of pressure on his knees, one of the more common career-killers out there. He's not a high-flier in general, making him far less injury prone late in his career than a guy like *gasp* Tracy McGrady would be. In fact, Scola has improved his game each year that he has been with the Rockets.
Besides, Scola has never played a ton of minutes. His career-high for a full season was 32 minutes per game last year. You'd think that he would have played more with the thin frontcourt, but Rick Adelman has always made a point of limiting Scola's late-game minutes in order to have a more defensive-minded presence on the court down the stretch. If anything, Scola won't wear himself out playing tons of minutes like the Hawks' Johnson very well could.
At the end of the day, the Rockets accomplished what they set out to do. They kept Luis Scola and that's all that matters. To be fair, the contract was not too overpriced, as Scola's market value was only limited, in theory, by his age. Mr. Alexander has been a gracious owner ever since taking over the team, so the money issue was... well, not an issue.
It doesn't hurt that Scola has been nothing but giddy about his new contract since the news was announced.
"I feel great. I feel great," the 30-year-old Scola said. "I'm going to be the place I wanted to be. I'm so happy."
He took to Twitter to celebrate, too.
A Rockets for the next 5 years... Couldnt be more happy ...
Hey, it's close enough.
Don't know about you, but I'm more than happy to root for the Slayer for another five years. He has been nothing but a tremendous worker and a class act ever since his debut in Houston. Here's to more success for Scola and for the Rockets. And, perhaps, a ring or two as well.
Update (10:43 p.m. Thurs): Apparently, the extra cash was needed. Jonathan Feigen notes:
Scola, however, said Thursday he was close to accepting an offer to return to Tau Vitoria in the Spanish league, where he had been the Rookie of the Year in 1999-2000 and the league MVP in 2004-05 and 2006-07 when he was unable to reach an agreement with the San Antonio Spurs, who had drafted him in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft.