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Scola excited about chance with Suns

Associated Press Modified: July 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm •  Published: July 17, 2012
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PHOENIX (AP) — Luis Scola wasn't particularly surprised when the Houston Rockets designated him as their amnesty player. He already knew they were going to go in a different direction.

What did catch him off-guard was the team that had the winning bid for his services.

While numerous teams were interested in Scola, the Phoenix Suns came from seemingly nowhere and snatched up the rugged forward, adding to their increasingly crowded frontcourt.

"I kind of knew I was going to be playing somewhere else," Scola said during a conference call Tuesday. "And when I found out it was Phoenix, I was a little surprised because there was a lot of talking with a lot of other teams that were supposedly going to bid. I didn't really expect anything from Phoenix and when they called me, I was a little bit surprised."

Scola was a steady player in five seasons with the Rockets, providing them with solid scoring, good rebounding and plenty of scrappiness. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds last season, but Houston used its amnesty clause to cut him loose and clear space on the salary cap.

Scola joins a Suns team that has plenty of depth up front, with Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick coming back. They also signed Michael Beasley to a free agent contract and extended a qualifying offer to restricted free agent center Robin Lopez.

That's a lot of big men, but a player with the skill and play-hard-all-the-time mentality of Scola should get plenty of playing time.

"If we're having trouble with really good players finding minutes, then we're in great shape," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Things usually work themselves out and you have a situation where it'll ultimately work out. I think it's going to be a great situation, it makes it a competitive situation."

It's been a busy offseason of rebuilding for the Suns.

Phoenix lost point guard Steve Nash, a two-time league MVP whom they sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal instead of allowing him to become a free agent.

Free agent forward Grant Hill, still productive late in his career, signed with the Clippers on Tuesday, leaving the Suns without their two most recognizable and talented players.

Phoenix started its rebuilding process quickly, signing Beasley to a three-year, $18 million deal, and brought back Goran Dragic, the one-time backup to Nash who signed a four-year, $30 million contract to return to the desert after he was traded to the Rockets in 2011.

The Suns lost out on guard Eric Gordon, a restricted free agent who had his contract with the Suns matched by New Orleans, but made up for that loss a little by picking up Scola.

"He's an incredibly smart player, he's a tough-minded player, a great guy in the locker room and plays with great intensity in practice," Gentry said. "He's been a really good player on the Argentine Olympic team."

Scola admittedly didn't know a whole lot about the Suns' offseason changes, focusing instead on the Rockets and the other teams who were reportedly interested in bidding for him.

Easing his transition to the desert will be his reunion with Dragic.

The Slovenian guard played just a season and a half in Houston, but had built a good rapport with Scola, who was disappointed to hear he had signed with the Suns. Now the two friends are back together again, key components in a rebuilding project.

"I was excited I was going to get to play with Goran again," Scola said. "Goran is a great player. He helped us win a lot of games and I feel really confident playing with him."