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Pacers welcome veteran Luis Scola

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Pacers believe they put a key piece in place to challenge for an NBA title when they recently traded for veteran forward Luis Scola.

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The Pacers had previously added guards C.J. Watson and Donald Sloan, and forwards Chris Copeland and draft pick Solomon Hill. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said topping it off with the acquisition of Scola put a smile on his face.

``The final piece to Larry Bird's overhaul of our bench, which was inconsistent, really, the past couple of years,'' Vogel said. ``He and I both believe very strongly in playing with depth and having a strong bench. Changes we made this summer are clearly going to bring an element to this team that we haven't had in the past.''

The Pacers took the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals last season, and now, armed with new weapons, Vogel isn't shying away about talk of a championship.

``We've got a shot the next couple years to go for it all, and we're going for it all,'' Vogel said.

Scola said an NBA title is the only thing missing from his career. The Argentine has won an Olympic gold medal and a silver in the world championship.

``I'm 33 years old,'' he said. ``I don't know how many more years I'm going to play. The older you are, the more you know that it is all about winning. Nobody really cares whatever you do in a bad team or what numbers you had if you've never played in the playoffs or anything.''

Scola will be important because he fills the void left when Tyler Hansbrough, last year's backup power forward, wasn't brought back. He will provide a sorely needed offensive punch to a unit that bogged the team down in the playoffs.

``He improves our basketball IQ,'' Vogel said. ``He's one of the smartest players that this league's ever seen. He's one of the savviest players at the power forward position that this league's ever seen. All his international experience -- he's just a guy that really makes his teammates better, makes the offense flow. It's just a great addition and a great upgrade to our club.''

The 6-9, 245-pound Scola played five seasons with the Houston Rockets and last season with the Suns. He has career averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He started 67 of 82 games for Phoenix last season and 410 of 468 regular season games in his career. He has no problem coming off the bench for Indiana.

``I feel like I'm a starter, but this situation puts me in a place that I'm not a starter anymore, and it wasn't my choice, but I'm going to embrace my role,'' he said. ``I'm not here to break anything. I know this team has a great chemistry. I'm not going to be the guy who breaks it up. I'm very happy to doing an important role on a good team.''

Vogel said he expects Scola to excel, regardless of his role.

``A guy like Luis Scola can come in having not played, and you put him in the last minute of the game, and he'll make game-winning plays. If you start him and play him 48 minutes, he'll make winning plays. He's just that kind of basketball player. I don't really have a lot of concern about that. I think it's going to be seamless.''

Danny Granger is expected to be ready for training camp after missing most of last season with a knee injury. A healthy Granger could add to the team's bench depth or move back into the starting lineup and push the emerging Lance Stephenson to a reserve role. Granger, a former All-Star, was the team's leading scorer two seasons ago.

``Danny's doing well,'' Vogel said. ``He's on track to come back healthy for training camp, and at that point, it's going to be a matter of getting comfortable and confident on the knee. We're expecting to have him back at full strength this year.''

Scola said he would have been fine staying in Phoenix, but since the Suns are rebuilding, he's thankful that in the final years of his career, he'll play for a contender.

``It's a great chance to try to get a ring -- a championship,'' he said. ``These last couple of years, I didn't have a chance to play for a team that's looking for a ring, and now, I do.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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