Last Friday, while on vacation in Maui, Phoenix Suns forward Luis Scola was watching his Argentine Olympic teammate, Pablo Prigioni, help the Knicks eliminate the Celtics in Game 6.
Scola, who was with Prigioni last summer when he was weighing his decision to sign with the Knicks, couldn't have been happier for his longtime friend, who he always knew would transition well into the NBA.
"I was in one of those bars on the beach and I was watching the game," Scola said. "People were looking at me like, 'Why does this guy care so much about these other guys?' I was watching the game when he scored 14 [points] and it was awesome. He played great."
This week, Scola spoke with ESPNNewYork.com about Prigioni's progression in the league, starting from the time the point guard was mulling the Knicks' offer.
What advice did you give Pablo before he signed?
I told him, 'I think you should go and I will push hard for you. I think it's the best thing for you and your career.' Not only that, I thought New York was the perfect team for him. The team has such great players like J.R. Smith and Carmelo [Anthony], and they have a great pick-and-roll player in Tyson Chandler. I'm not surprised they play well with him on the court.
Why do you think it took him so long to come to the NBA?
Guys said, 'He's not tall enough, he's not strong enough, he's not athletic enough, how is he going to guard guys, etc. etc.' Most of the guys are wrong a lot of times, so I wasn't really worried. I knew Pablo was going to do good. ... I think he just needed a good chance, a good situation, a good timing, and he finally got it.
Overall, what are your thoughts about his rookie season?
He's not a rookie; he's 36 years old. He's played everywhere and he played on many different levels. He's hardly a rookie in terms of being inexperienced. He knows the game very well. He was always a thinker of the game. He would be one step ahead of the play. He wouldn't care at all about numbers. He would always want to win.
His defense is very sneaky and he even applies full-court pressure, which many point guards don't do. Has he always been like that?
He has a great feel for where the ball is going to go. When he got to the NBA, he was saying, 'I'm coming to a new environment and I've got to earn my respect, and I've got to find a way to get minutes and to be effective,' and he did that. ... He's going to go out there and do something that guys don't do, so maybe that gets me more minutes, maybe that gets me a little bit more respect.
Before the Celtics series, Pablo severely sprained his right ankle, but he was back on the court quickly for Game 2. Did that impress you?
He doesn't play with his body; he plays with his head. There was one year in Spain where he got a problem with his knee, but he kept playing. He could barely run, but he still played. The reason why is because when his head is in the game, he's effective. In today's basketball where it's about jumping high and being strong and all that, he plays the game with his head. That's a little edge that he has.
Have a great story about Pablo?
He got the MVP of the Spanish Cup [in 2006], which was the only time in history that somebody that scored three points got the MVP. But he got like 15 assists and five steals. I was with him. It was just unbelievable. We couldn't even play without him.
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