Zaza Pachulia

Kevon Looney could go from Warriors' bench to starting center, mentor

13-looney-ap.jpg
Associated Press

Kevon Looney could go from Warriors' bench to starting center, mentor

OAKLAND -- Of all the non-core Golden State Warriors players through their ongoing platinum years, nobody has stayed longer and advanced further than Kevon Looney.

He came almost as an afterthought with wonky hips, worked through the pain and the inactivity, and his reward entering his fourth NBA season is to be part of a three-headed center position until DeMarcus Cousins is activated. This doesn’t seem like much of a reward for any young and ambitious fellow, but the market does as the market will, and Looney, more than Jordan Bell and Damian Jones, understood that his future remains where his past has been.

“Free agency was new to me, and the market wasn’t really that good,” Looney, who signed a one-year, $1.567 million contract, said Monday at Warriors Media Day, “so me knowing that going into it, I just figured the Warriors offered me a contract, and I said, 'Why not stay and try to do it again?' "

As one of the three replacements for Zaza Pachulia, along with Jordan Bell and Damian Jones, Looney’s job as currently defined will be to meet matchup requirements both in-game and for extended stretches. But as the steadiest and most experienced of the three, Looney is on the cusp of making the transition to veteran and associate mentor to Bell and Jones.

“I think we all bring something to the table at the center position,” Looney said. “We all have different strengths. I know I’m a good rebounder, and I’m looking forward to showing what I can do.”

As for Bell, whose first season was more spectacular but more mercurial, he has received a fuller understanding of the demands placed on someone who previously has been there.

"I'm ready for a bigger role," he said. "I know the work I put in this summer, trying to get in better shape and not making as many mistakes as I did a year ago. I know a lot more about our team, and learning how to take things seriously. I know more about what to expect when we start practicing and the changes in my body."

As for how the new center position sorts itself out, Warriors coach Steve Kerr made one thing evident.

"The only thing I can tell you for sure is that Draymond Green will not be our starting center to start the season," he said. "It'll be Damian, Loon or Bell."

That's the window they've all waited for -- Looney more than them all.

In appreciation of Zaza Pachulia's time with the Warriors

zaztrophyus.jpg
AP

In appreciation of Zaza Pachulia's time with the Warriors

Among Warriors most underappreciated during seasons good and great, Zaza Pachulia may rank higher than anyone to wear the jersey over the past 40 years.

When the devoted citizens of JaVale Nation were wondering why Zaza was on the court, the Warriors always knew.

And each time Zaza would fumble the ball into a turnover or fail to score off a brilliant pass inside, groans of disapproval could be heard throughout Oracle Arena.

Why is he even playing?

Through it all, over the two full seasons Pachulia was on the roster, as the Warriors were winning two championships, players and coaches barely flinched.

They got it. They understood Zaza’s very necessary role to their success and realized no one else on the roster could do it any better.

On a team of marquee entertainers that flourish under the spotlight, Pachulia was the hired handyman, ensuring the floor was free of hazards and every light was bright and properly aligned. He was the team janitor, cleaning windows, sweeping debris from the stage and taking out the trash.

On a team with three veterans -- Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West -- widely acknowledged for their hoops wisdom, Pachulia was the fourth.

Ask youngsters Kevon Looney or Jordan Bell or Damian Jones who has helped them the most, providing tips on surviving in the NBA paint, and one of the first names tumbling out of their mouths is Zaza.

Ask Draymond Green which of his teammates doesn’t get enough credit for his smarts, and he’ll tell you. It’s Zaza.

Pachulia is Klay Thompson’s opponent on competitive small-wager bets like which would have the most dunks during in the 2017-18 season. Despite Thompson boasting that he would win by “at least four or five dunks,” Zaza emerged with a 13-11 victory.

When Thompson looks around for his buddy next season, Zaza won’t be there. His time as a Warrior officially ended Sunday, when he signed a one-year contract to play with the Pistons.

That Pachulia, whose 57 regular-season starts led all Warriors centers, would not return was apparent during the postseason, when he appeared in seven of 21 games, making zero starts. He had become an unofficial assistant coach. The game as currently played in the postseason, where quickness and agility are essential, pushes an aging plodder like Zaza toward the far end of the bench.

As the game speeds up and defenses demand dexterity, it’s time for the youngsters to show if they are up to the task. They may not screen or block out as effectively as Pachulia, and probably won’t get as deeply into the heads of opponents as he did.

Yet Zaza, 34, will be missed for his contributions. He was significant in much the same ways as Leandro Barbosa was in 2015, or Matt Barnes on the We Believe team of 2006-07 or Mario Elie on the 55-win squad in 1991-92. As Tom Tolbert’s presence was to the Run-TMC teams, so was Pachulia to the back-to-back champs.

Like his former teammates and coaches, those fans that were in Zaza’s corner, aware of his brutish finesse and savvy, appreciated him. Know that their ranks will grow larger in the years to come.

Report: Zaza Pachulia agrees to deal with Pistons

zazaus.jpg
USATSI

Report: Zaza Pachulia agrees to deal with Pistons

After two seasons with the Warriors, the Zaza Pachulia era is over. The veteran center is reportedly headed to Detroit. 

Pachulia and the Pistons agreed to a one-year deal, according to Shams Charania. 

The 34-year-old Pachulia averaged 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in his two championship seasons with the Warriors. 

Over his 15-year NBA career, Pachulia has averaged 6.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game for five different teams.