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OAKLAND -- Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia leads all centers in early ballot returns for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game, and Draymond Green couldn’t be happier for his teammate.
Even if Pachulia’s stunning popularity has, at least for now, an effect on Green’s chances to be voted in as a starter for the Western Conference team.
“Shout-out to Zaza,” Green said, grinning Friday morning after shootaround. “Big ups to Zaza.”
The ballot for All-Star Game starters lists two categories: frontcourt and backcourt. Pachulia and Green both are frontcourt players, as is Warriors teammate Kevin Durant. Through returns of Jan. 4, Durant leads all Western Conference frontcourt players with 541,209 votes. Pachulia is second with 439,675.
Green, a member of the 2016 All-Star team, is fifth, with 236,315 votes. In third place is Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, with Pelicans forward/center Anthony Davis is fourth place.
Pachulia, the journeyman center from the Republic of Georgia, is proud of his 14-year NBA career but even prouder of the support he is receiving from his country for the second straight year. With a strong push from social media, Pachulia also balloted inordinately high last season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
“Do you think it’s a (computer) hack?” Pachulia asked, facetiously, after shootaround.
Pachulia then turned serious, referencing the wars and the politics of Georgia, and acknowledging the national unity and resilience of 3.5 million fellow Georgians.
“All I can do is sit back and enjoy it and be thankful, be really thankful for all of this,” he said. “You can get mad if you want, or you can be happy if you want. But you can’t buy this. It’s a special moment and I really appreciate the support.
“And that’s what I care about. I don’t care about All-Star (status) and the fame that comes with it and the recognition that comes with it. I care about the support and the love I’m getting. It kind of tells me I’m doing something right. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I’m doing something for me people, for my community.”
The NBA changed the voting rules in part because of Pachulia’s strong showing last season. Fan voting has been reduced from 100 percent of the equation to 50 percent, with players and media now accounting for 25 percent each in a weighted system.
"It’s the Zaza Rule,” Green said. “I don’t know it’s going to work against that one, though. He has a lot of votes.”
For what it’s worth, Green says he was irritated by Pachulia’s showing last season but now sees it “pretty hilarious,” partly because the two are teammates.
“I’m definitely voting for Zaza,” Green said. “We’re going to start campaigning for him for the (other) players to vote for him, too.”
Balloting concludes on Jan. 16, with the starters announced three days later.