Scola cautiously optimistic about Argentina's chances in Rio
The Buenos Aires native, who turns 36 on Saturday, will be a star attraction at the Summer Games. He has enjoyed a long and successful career with his national team, and as a professional in Europe and the NBA.
Twelve years ago at the Athens Olympics, Scola averaged 17.6 points per game and helped Argentina reach the top of the podium. The event, Scola says, is one he always looks back on with enormous pride.
It was an amazing moment, something I will never forget. It was the best moment of my career so far. A gold medal at the Olympics, I will always remember it and it makes me proud. - Scola
Also in that team was Manu Ginobili, the only player in the Argentina side to score more points than Scola. Ginobili, now 38, poured in 19.3ppg in Greece. The squad was deep and talented, though Scola and Ginobili were the team's most influential players.
Argentina (ARG) celebrate Semi-Final win over USA at 2004 Olympics
Heading into what is likely his last Olympics, the situation facing Argentina is now very different. Instead of being a team on the rise, the South American giants, while not a team on the decline, rely a lot on veterans while hoping youngsters can grow up fast.
For that reason, Scola has adopted a realistic approach to this summer. He understands there is a lot of good competition that awaits Argentina and making it to the knockout round is going to be tough.
While his national team has been in the fight for medals at the last three Summer Games, a lot of things are going to have to fall into place for Argentina to reach the podium this time.
They will play in Group B against Brazil, Lithuania, Nigeria, Spain and a team that wins one of the three FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. Yes, Argentina have big names, with 36-year-old Andres Nocioni also among their leaders. Yet arguably the most famous trio of players in Argentina history - Scola, Ginobili and Nocioni - are past their prime. The bench will not be as deep and talented as past Olympics, and certainly not like the 2004 team.
"We need to see how healthy we are going to be at the beginning of the tournament," Scola said to FIBA.com.
One thing we know is that we are not in the same condition and position to be as competitive as we were in the past, but we will do our best to have a great tournament against the best of the world. - Scola
Argentina did not go into last year's FIBA Americas Championship as one of the favorites to reach the Final and clinch a place in the Rio Games, yet they surpassed expectations and solidified their place as the No. 4 team in the FIBA World Ranking with a runners-up finish to Venezuela.
Ginobili, who has not played for Argentina since the 2012 Games, was on hand to watch Argentina beat Mexico in the Semi-Final and clinch a place in Rio. It was the latest in a series of wonderful moments for the national team.
The confederation's announcement several weeks ago that Ginobili had decided to make himself available for Rio gave an emotional lift to the country and his teammates.
"That is great news for us," Scola said. "I am happy because if he took that decision, it means that he feels capable of playing and able to help us. He is going to be welcome like every time he came to play with the national team and we are all happy that Manu will help us in Rio."
Playing in Rio de Janeiro is something that Scola is very much looking forward to. He has said on numerous occasions how playing for the national team allows him to stay in good physical condition.
He is right now, however, in NBA play-off mode with the Toronto Raptors. The league's only Canada-based team is knotted at 2-2 in an opening round series with Indiana. Scola believes his Raptors team is on the right path.
"The team is very competitive," he said. "The roster has a lot of talented players. But what's most important is that we have a very deep roster and a lot of options for every position on the court. It's important to have a deep roster knowing that we would like a long play-off run. Everybody is ready to give his contribution and help the team."