Luis Scola has always been honest to the media, albeit bereft of specifics, in his season with the Phoenix Suns. His words emanate with authenticity and purpose. When Scola talks, people listen and nod.
More than any other player or coach this season, Scola has been open about saying what we were all thinking.
"We just don't know how to play well," Scola told Craig Grialou on Sunday night after the loss to the Hornets. Grialou, with arizonasports.com, is the intrepid reporter who finds time with players outside the "normal" media sessions. "We don't know how to play basketball and that's why we lose. Until we learn how to play 48 minutes of basketball, we're not going to win games. I'm surprised we won (23) games playing this way. Many of the games we won, we did the same thing. We just overcame it somehow.
"I'm also surprised we didn't fix it. We saw the problem pretty much the first week and we couldn't fix it. It's very frustrating. It's a bad year."
Scola has been telling us the problem all season long. Back when the season was young and Alvin Gentry was trying to rally the troops into a winning record, Scola already saw the writing on the wall. He was the first to speak openly of what would become a very long season.
Scola on November 2
"There's only one way to win games and that's playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things," he said after just the second game of the season, a good win against a bad Detroit team.
"It's not going to be pretty a lot of times," he warned. "But that's just the way it has to be."
Scola on November 24
"I am discourgaged," Luis Scola said, about the ongoing deficits. "I know we are going to lose a lot more games than we are going to win if we put ourselves 15, 16, 18, 19 down. We are going to lose most of those games."
The Suns started the season allowing 10-point deficits in 11 of their first 13 games. And remember, this was the EASY part of their season schedule.
Scola on December 1
"We need to change the dynamic, we need to change our attitude, we need to change our minds," he said. "We're in the kind of dynamic where everything goes wrong. We just can't get it going.
"We need to start thinking like a winning team. We need to start believing in ourselves and winning games."
Scola on December 10
"I don't know," Luis Scola said once again to a throng of reporters after the game, his response as honest as it can be to the media. He was not angry or defensive or evasive. He was, and always is, open and forthcoming and willing to talk to the media after every game. He apologizes for not having better answers.
"We don't have a day off anymore," he said about Monday's off day after the back-to-back. By his tone, you could tell he was grasping at straws. "We need to practice. It's not going to happen by talking. I think a lot about it, I just don't know."
After we left him alone, he just sat there in his shorts at least ten more minutes. He didn't go take a shower or talk to any other players. He just sat there, staring at the floor.
Since that game, Luis Scola's presence after games has been fleeting. He and most of the other Suns players prefer to hang out in the hot tub until long after the media give up and go home for the night.
Only diehard reporters like Paul Coro and Craig Grialou have gotten the occasional soundbite from Luis at off hours and times.
The writing was on the wall early, folks. It has clearly had little to do with the coach, since the Suns have burned through two of them. One was 13-28, the other has been 10-26. One had a full compliment of players, the other has had to go without Marcin Gortat since starting 8-13.
Both had to deal with virtually the same roster of players though, and the frustration has been high all year. Everyone is frustrated, not just Luis Scola. Dragic has called out unnamed teammates for lack of effort. So has Marcin Gortat. Both head coaches have bemoaned lack of consistent effort as well.
It's been a bad, bad season. Luis Scola knew it from day one.
Let's not absolve Luis of all blame here. He has not been able to help lead a charge in the right direction. He says he's surprised the Suns haven't figure it out, yet part of that can be attributed to the leadership on the court.
But amid the turmoil, Scola has been a model of consistency. He has earned consistent minutes despite a youth movement because he exemplifies what the coaches have wanted all season: effort every second.