Zaza Pachulia has been in the NBA since 2003 but is still getting accustomed to playing games on Christmas Day ahead of Golden State Warriors’ holiday game against Cleveland Cavaliers in a rematch of last year’s Finals.
The 33-year-old Tbilisi native is in his second season with the Warriors, averaging 5.0 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting a solid 56 percent from the field. Pachulia, a traditional NBA center admits that the move to Golden State was a tough adjustment at the beginning but says that the ultimate goal of the team is to ‘enjoy the moment’.
Before Monday’s battle with the Cavs, Pachulia, who is recovering from a shoulder injury and hopes to participate in the game, took part in a worldwide conference call and spoke about the Warriors, his injury and the All-Star voting in his native Georgia.
Q. You’ve been at the Warriors a while now. How much do you think you have contributed to the team, and how much do you think what you contributed last season is having an effect on how you’re playing this term?
PACHULIA: Yeah, it’s my second year with the team, obviously. I remember it was pretty tough to get adjusted. We took some time. It’s a lot of learning process to go through playing defensive basketball, the personalities we have and talent we have. You have to fit in and learn each other’s game, and the system is a pretty high tempo, pretty high pace. It took some time, but every day was better and better, watching film with the help of the coaches and teammates. After a couple games, couple months, I started getting more and more comfortable, and more understanding of what this team is all about. This team is all about expecting players to contribute to the best of their ability and to enjoy this game, enjoy this moment.
This year is totally different, honestly. Winning the championship was a huge boost for me and everybody else. Also, considering where last year we had seven new guys and this year only three, we feel more comfortable with each other. But at the same time, we understand we still haven’t kind of played our best basketball, basically whatever we did in the playoffs last year. We’re proud of it, but again, we’re a deep team and we have a big picture where we’re looking forward to the playoffs. At the same time, we understand that the regular season is important for us to get better every single day.
Q. I just wanted to know how difficult or how easy has it been sitting out while the team keeps winning these games, and the second question is when can we expect you back on the court?
PACHULIA: Yeah, unfortunately, injuries are part of the game, and it’s very unfortunate that we’re dealing with this many injuries. We have three guys from the starting lineup out: Steph [Curry], Draymond [Green] and myself. And then Shaun [Livingston] has been injured, Andre [Iguodala] missed last game. But we have a good streak going on. It just tells you how deep we are and the great players we have.
Looking at this roster, there are, I think, 11 players who have been starters in their careers. So it’s pretty amazing we’re having this much experience, and whoever we put out there is very capable to play the type of basketball that we are playing. At this age, honestly, it’s kind of boring to be injured. It’s a slow process. It’s a rehab, the same thing every day.
It’s something that we’re not used to because we play such an up-tempo game with the pace, and suddenly we have a slow pace. So it’s not fun. It’s not the best thing to deal with, but understanding that health is so important, and for us, it’s the key, it’s the goal to be healthy and to be in the best shape possible for the future. That’s why we need everybody in the playoffs and everybody playing their best game.
Q. I wanted to know does playing the Cavaliers on Christmas Day for the third year in a row make it a special game in terms of intensity and creating a rivalry?
PACHULIA: Yeah, this is going to be my second since it’s my second year with this team. Obviously, we all know the history. We all know what this team has done the last couple years. It’s very special, first of all, to be playing on Christmas Day and a great opportunity to play in front of the millions and millions of people all over the world where Christmas is a holiday. Everybody is with their families. People love watching basketball, NBA games, and the best teams competing against each other.
Obviously playing against the Cavs, it’s even more special because the teams faced each other a couple times in a row in The Finals now. It’s going to be pretty interesting, a pretty intense game, a lot of attention, and especially since one team is from the East and the other team is from the West, so it’s only [one of two matchups in the regular season]. We’re really looking forward to it, but at the same time, we understand that we have two more games until that game, and win or lose, it’s not the end of the world. We had the experience last year where we lost [on Christmas Day at Cleveland] by just one point, but then we ended up winning the championship. This game doesn’t kind of decide anything, but at the same time, of course, we would love to win. We’re going to do our best to win because it’s for our confidence and it’s for our fans and for our city, and again, understanding where we might face the same [team] in The Finals this year.
Q. The All-Star voting started. The votes from your own country of Georgia gave you the eighth-most votes in the entire league last year. Are you somewhat disappointed that the All-Star voting system changed last year, or does the support from your home country outweigh the disappointment?
PACHULIA: Thanks for asking me that question because honestly, first of all, I had no idea that All-Star voting started. When it comes to disappointment, actually I’m proud of whatever happened. Most of my fans, being honest, are from Georgia, Georgia votes. People have been voting for me a lot. We made the league change the rules, so this is the proudest moment for me. And just being realistic, I’m not an All-Star-caliber player. I couldn’t care less about those things, but it makes me proud and happy and something we can all be proud of that the league changed the rule because of us.
Again, the most important thing is that the love and support I’ve been getting from the fans. It’s not easy to get, talking about more than 1.5 million votes and to be one of the top players in the league to get this many votes. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun for me. This is how I look at it. It’s not about being an All-Star. It’s all about the love and support I’ve been getting without me asking one single time to vote for me. It’s all naturally just happening itself.
I’m just enjoying the process. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. My job is to play and to get healthy right now and to represent the Warriors in a professional way on the court.