Relieved Scola jokes with Chinese media

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Relieved Scola jokes with Chinese media

Luis Scola called Houston teammate Yao Ming "old" on Sunday.

Turkish media, TV rights holders, domestic media, English-speaking journalists, and then the Chinese media.

It is always difficult to catch Luis Scola, one of the biggest stars at the FIBA World Championship, for an interview in the mixed zone.

For the first time, the Houston Rockets forward stopped and greeted a group of Chinese media after Argentina beat Spain 86-81 in the fifth-place playoff on Sunday.

"Wow, so many Chinese media here. Hi, how are you guys," said Scola, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead his team to a comfortable victory.

Scola appeared to have left the 104-85 quarterfinal loss to Lithuania behind him, and he joked about wanting to play China in the last eight.

"I'm happy we went this far. I wish I could play China in the quarterfinals," he smiled. "It would be a great match. But we had to play Lithuania and they defeated us."

Despite being restricted to 13 points against Lithuania, Scola still finished as top scorer in the tournament with 27.1 points per game.

"The World Championship is a very high-level tournament," he said. "Those who are playing high-level basketball here are not all NBA players. If you play here with a high level, there is no reason you could not be good in the NBA."

With Houston teammate Yao Ming returning to full training after missing last season with a foot injury, Scola has reason to expect to a better year.

"Yao is healthy now and I'm looking forward to playing with him in the new season," he said. "But right now, I just need some sleep and to have a good break."

Scola has a solid fan base in China thanks to his dedication to the Rockets and support of Yao in the post.

His popularity has earned him a number of sponsorship deals with Chinese sporting goods companies. Even the Argentine team's shirt sponsor is Li Ning, a Chinese brand.

Scola also offered some good-natured ribbing when a Chinese journalist told him that Sunday was Yao's 30th birthday.

"Today's Yao's birthday? Are you kidding me? He's old," said Scola, who is the same age as Yao.

"No, no, no, he's young. I'm serious. We are still young. Yao, happy birthday. Eat a good cake. I will get a good present and I will bring it to you."

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