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Nabbing Scola pays off for Indy

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The breakdown of Luis Scola’s collection of medals from his numerous international basketball experiences is as follows: Three gold, three silver and four bronze.

Not enough to construct a multicolored doorstop, but close.

The list of cities in which Scola has proudly worn the colors of his native Argentina during international basketball competition ranges from San Juan to Athens to Beijing to Indianapolis.

Yes, Indianapolis.

In 2002, Scola, then 22, teamed with longtime San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili to help lead Argentina to the silver medal at the FIBA World Cup inside the building formerly known as Conseco Fieldhouse.

Now he’s back and one of the main reasons the Indiana Pacers are flying high with a record of 19-3 entering Friday’s home game against Charlotte.

The 6-foot-9 backup power forward is making the most of his 19 minutes a game, averaging 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds. He also holds the team’s top field-goal percentage (.514).

Pacers coach Frank Vogel grins when asked what his reaction was in July when he learned Scola had been traded here from Phoenix in exchange for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a future first-round draft pick.

“I threw a party,” Vogel said. “No, seriously, I was ecstatic because of what he brings to the game.”

A starter for much of his first six NBA seasons, the first five with Houston, Scola brings starting talent and experience to Indiana’s revamped second unit. He, along with guards C.J. Watson and Orlando Johnson, center Ian Mahinmi and forwards Chris Copeland and Solomon Hill, have added a dimension the Pacers sorely lacked in previous seasons.

Scola came into this season with career numbers — 29.1 mpg, 13.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg — that eclipse the ones he’s putting up now. As recently as 2010-11, he averaged 18.3 points a game for the Rockets, with his best season of crashing the glass being his 8.8 boards in 2008-09.

He gives none of it a second thought. Indiana is winning games at a historic clip, which makes for a pleasant departure from his one season in Phoenix, in which the Suns finished 25-57.

“I like to win and the type of environment we have here,” Scola said. “Starting. Coming off the bench. It doesn’t really matter to me. I like to start, but I would trade it for what we’re doing here.”

Scola’s best performances so far this season were 17 points and four rebounds during Indiana’s 97-82 victory at Boston on Nov. 22. More recently, he double-doubled Ginobili’s Spurs to the tune of 12 points and 10 boards in an 11-point Indiana win Dec. 7 on the Spurs’ home floor.

Overall, he’s scored in all 22 games and hasn’t played less than 13 minutes in any.

Scola tells the story of how he watched portions of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown between the Pacers and Miami Heat on television. While one of his young sons couldn’t help but pull for the superstar-laden Heat, Scola found himself both intrigued and impressed by Indiana’s team play and ball movement.

NBA players playing what greatly resembled European-style basketball. A few weeks later he took a call from his agent. He had been traded to that same Pacers team.

“It’s funny because (in 2002) I was here for a couple of weeks. My impression of the city then is different than it is now. It’s my home now,” said Scola, who resides in Fishers. “Everywhere I go I try real hard to get a feel for the place that I am, and Indiana is no exception.”

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