Scola cautiously optimistic about Raptors’ chances

They may not know it, but Luis Scola is having a major influence on his younger teammates (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

In the midst of perhaps the team’s greatest season ever, the Toronto Raptors owe a fair bit of their success to veteran free-agent acquisition Luis Scola.

Having started all 41 games for the Raptors this season, the 35-year-old has been a stabilizing force on a Toronto squad that has been anything but with all the injuries it has suffered.

The Raptors are Scola’s fourth team in nine NBA seasons, in addition to an extensive international career, so he’s been around the block a few times and has been part of squads of all kinds.

In this Raptors team the Argentine sees a lot of promise, but is cautiously optimistic about its chances.

“Everything is there for us to make a really, really good run, but before we can talk about all of those things -- like how this Raptors team ranks among other Raptors teams, how good of a team this is or how far we can get -- we will have to do two things first,” Scola said on Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Jeff Blair Show Wednesday.

“The first is we have to finish our year. We’ve only played half a year. … A lot of teams do very well for a part of the year and, for some reason, they start to break down at some point and things start to go wrong.

“And the second one is the most difficult one: Players ourselves. We’ve got to be able to carry over whatever we do in the regular season in the playoffs. That’s how great teams are built and that’s what they had to do to become a great team.”

Expanding on this, Scola said the biggest difference between teams that are true threats and those that are merely talented has everything to do with what’s going on between the ears.

“I believe it’s the mental part of it. Sometimes the difference looks pretty small. You’ve got all the pieces, you got the talent, you got all that,” Scola said. “Some other teams seem to be close but really the difference … is a huge step and I do believe it starts in the players’ heads.”

Of course, as much as you can speak about how important other factors are, talent matters in the NBA and the Raptors boast arguably the best backcourt in the league.

Scola is well aware of this and had high praise for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

“They’re our team. We can’t go anywhere without them and we are going to go wherever they take us. We know that and everybody knows that.

“I believe in today’s NBA both of them have one thing that’s very hard to be effective without, which is going to the free-throw line. They both have a really good free-throw line rate, they find a way to get to the free-throw line and if [opponents] don’t foul them they punish people.”

While he isn’t wrong in stating how important the Raptors’ dynamic duo is, Scola has been a crucial part of Toronto’s 26-15 record. He’s averaging a respectable 9.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 45.4 per cent shooting -- including a spectacular 42.4 per cent from deep -- and has been one of the only consistent Raptors for what has been a tumultuous season injury-wise.