The way players go about making names for themselves in the NBA often takes various paths. Superstars tend to emerge rather quickly and become fan favorites. Then there’s the curious case of the veteran journeymen that quickly became cult heroes for their fan base and rightfully so. Over the last month or so of the season, Zaza Pachulia has reached an ethereal level for a variety of reasons.
When it came out that he was the second-leading vote recipient among big men in the NBA All-Star Game, it was met with many crying foul. Instead, the Georgian native was greeted with nothing but love and adulation from his home fans.
It really seemed to resonate with the big man, as his hustle picked up even further and he began making some plays that had fans roaring with approval. Diving on the ground while simultaneously passing the ball for an open layup still sticks out in the mind of many Warriors fans.
Now while it remains to be seen if Pachulia gets in with the new voting process, it can’t be denied the energy that he has brought to the team. It doesn’t just begin and end with his country helping him try to get to the All-Star Game either.
He has immersed himself into the rivalry between the Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. On Wednesday night, Pachulia floored Russell Westbrook with a massive hit that resulted in the big man getting a technical foul.
What happened next may have raised his stock in the eyes of the bay area faithful and made him a villain among other fans of the league. He stood over Westbrook and stared him down after the vicious hit, which Westbrook was clearly not happy about after the game.
The rivalry between the two franchises took a new twist with Kevin Durant joining Golden State in free agency. While this rivalry is young, Pachulia took it upon himself to take it to another level and really create discussion among the basketball world with his play.
Whether people are keen to him this season between the votes and his escalation of a rivalry, it can’t be denied the impact he has had as a presence. If his play can match the attention that he is receiving it will only benefit the Warriors in the long run.
Thunder star Russell Westbrook vows revenge on Warriors' Zaza Pachulia after flagrant foul
Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook had a beef with a member of the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, and it wasn't former teammate Kevin Durant.
This time, it was Warriors big man Zaza Pachuli, who knocked Westbrook to the floor during a struggle for the ball late in the first half and appeared to stand over the Thunder point guard as he writhed in pain. Officials reviewed the play and assessed Pachuli with a flagrant foul 1 call.
There didn’t appear to be any retaliation on the Thunder’s part … not yet, anyway.
"He hit me kind of hard, but it’s all right. I’m going to get his ass back — straight up," Westbrook told reporters after the game.
When asked if he noticed Pachulia standing over him, Westbrook answered: "Nah, I didn’t see until just now, but I don’t play that game. I'm going to get his ass back so — whenever that is, I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I don’t play that game."
Pachulia told USA Today: "I just went for the ball, honestly, and I thought it was a good steal.I had the ball in my hands. He was coming towards me, so that was a hit.
"Yeah, it was previous play I got elbowed, but we had a foul to give and [he was] playing pick-and-roll. I was trying to be more aggressive, to control the coverage, and because we had a foul to give with less than a minute or a couple seconds left, so that’s about it. If it’s a hard foul, it is a hard foul. You take it. There’s nothing wrong with [it]."
Westbrook finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists for his 21st triple-double of the season, but Oklahoma City was routed by Golden State, 121-100.
The Warriors visit the Thunder on Feb. 11, but Pachulia said he wasn’t concerned with Westbrook’s vow to get revenge.
"We're thinking about this team and staying healthy moving forward and, better, getting into the playoffs and playing for the championship. That's what I'm thinking about," Pachulia said. "I'm not thinking about these kind of comments. That team is not there, so they might be thinking about other stuff, like getting back. So, you know, OK, you can get me back.”