OAKLAND – Even now there are times when the Warriors long for the assets of Zaza Pachulia, who did so many “little” things exceptionally well that it amounted to a unique greatness.
Take his picks, for example. Zaza is one of the best in the NBA at using screens to get in the way of defenders trying to get to his shooters.
Take his humor, for another example. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound center was quick with a quip, which often was made funnier by an accent from the Republic of Georgia.
Pachulia, one of the league’s ultimate blue-collar teammates, returned to Oracle Arena on Sunday as a member of the Detroit Pistons. He wanted to beat the Warriors, with whom he spent the past two seasons, but he wanted a reminder of the success he enjoyed with them.
Zaza wanted the jewelry he earned as a member 2017-18 NBA championship team.
He was presented his ring by the teammate to whom he was closest: Klay Thompson. The two met at midcourt a couple minutes before tipoff, with Thompson presenting the ring and Pachulia receiving a long ovation as a video tribute played on the big screens above.
“The championship ring experience is amazing,” Paculia said before the game. “But what I value the most is the friendships and relationships I’ve built with some of the guys and the things I learned from the coaches.
“That’s the most important thing because life is more than basketball. The friendships and relationships are going to go on for the rest of my life. I’m just lucky to experience such a time with this team on the court and, more important, off the court.”
Pachulia made 127 regular-season starts and 15 more in the postseason during his two seasons with the Warriors. His two young sons, Davit and Saba, were regular visitors at the Warriors practice facility in downtown Oakland, using the place as their playground.
Pachulia exchanged pregame hugs with most of the Warriors, with Kevin Durant interrupting his pregame routine to for several minutes to engage in conversation with Zaza and his sons.
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“It’s great seeing them,” Pachulia said of his former teammates. “We’ve been in a lot of battles and winning a championship brings you even closer . . . because you truly understand each other. Without the culture and chemistry that you build, it’s impossible to win.
“Those guys are special to me. They’ve been great to my family and I call them family as well.”