Scola joins Francis, signs with Chinese shoemaker

HOUSTON -- Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola has signed an endorsement deal with Chinese shoemaker Anta, the same company that signed Houston guard Steve Francis to become its first international spokesman last month. The 6-foot-9 Argentine joined the Rockets in a trade with San Antonio in July. Scola has appeared in each of the Rockets' first five games, averaging 18 minutes off the bench. He had eight points and eight rebounds in Houston's 89-80 win over Portland on Nov. 3. Scola, 27, was named the Most Valuable Player of the FIBA Americas tournament last summer, helping Argentina win a silver medal. He was also a member of his country's gold-medal winning team in Athens in 2004. Anta was established in 1994. It has grown into one of China's largest sellers of athletics apparel, with more than 4,000 outlets nationwide. The company is riding the popularity of Yao Ming, the NBA's first Chinese player, whom the Rockets drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2002. Yao has an endorsement deal with Reebok. Rockets Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes have endorsement deals with two other Chinese shoemakers, Peak and Li Ning.