Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where Amazing Salary Dumps Happen

Today in San Antonio, the Rockets took out the Spurs. That would be remarkable enough, really, given that this is the time of the year that the Spurs historically put the throttle down and get into disturbingly efficient killing mode, especially against a Rockets team that doesn't have Tracy McGrady (naturally) and traded away its starting point guard (Rafer Alston).

But hey, Yao Ming can do some things, right? And so can Testy, since he's still in that first year good guy stage. But, um, no. The fingerprints on this loss were entirely those of Luis Scola, who had 19 points, 17 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals and was the high man in plus/minus at +14, the highest on his team. Rockets 87, Spurs 85.

So who is Luis Scola? An Argentine power forward who the Spurs drafted in 2002. He never played a minute for that club, in part due to difficulty getting him away from his club team, and in part because, well, the Spurs have little need for a power forward given the presence of Tim Duncan. In 2007, San Antonio essentially gave Scola away to the Rockets along with big stiff Jackie Butler for cash, a second round pick, and a tax deduction named Vassilis Spanoulis. Scola finished third in the rookie of the year voting last year, and he's giving them 12.6 points, 8.7 boards, and shooting 53% from the field -- all of them up from his good rookie year.

This is, in all likelihood, Scola's ceiling; he's 28, after all, and while he knows what he's doing on the floor, he's certainly not a lockdown defensive player. But it's interesting, on some level, just how convoluted the salary cap makes the NBA. Here the Spurs had to more or less move an asset for very little to an arch-rival, just to make sure that they didn't go over the cap, or create a logjam at a position where they already had a star.

The closest corollary I can think of here is Raheem Brock having a career in Indianapolis for the Colts, after the Eagles drafted the Temple product in the seventh round, then overspent on signing their rookies and had to give him up. Baseball teams sell off assets all the time, of course, but rarely this blatant, and usually not in ways that could cause them a head to head loss that matters.

And, of course, Scola's also not likely to do this again in the playoffs, so on some level, you have to wonder how much it matters. But right now, with the Rockets ahead of the Spurs in the hyper-tight West, the answer is: a lot. And in a way that no other league does...

(And here's the YouTube link of the clinching plays, brought to you by commenter John over at Mundo Albiceleste. For more on the game, go check his site out.)

1 comment:

John said...

A hard lesson for the Spurs from the man whom they picked back in 2003. They should have known him better.

Well what can I say? I’m glad he is with the Rockets now and proving to be a hit with the fans their. I hope he can help for the likes Yao and the rest to end their first round playoff jinx.

Here is my re-cap on the game. Please do check it out.

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