Zaza Pachulia

In appreciation of Zaza Pachulia's time with the Warriors

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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

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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. 

Kevin Durant is returning, but what about six other Warriors free agents?

Kevin Durant is returning, but what about six other Warriors free agents?

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant will be back with the Warriors next season because it’s what he wants and because he’s man enough to dismiss the tone-deaf “humor” tossed his way before the championship parade on Tuesday.

Growing up where he grew up, and how he grew up, Durant has heard much worse.

He’s the surest of seven free agents to return to the Warriors next season. There is no way the other six all avoid the roster turnover that begins next month.

“The safe thing to say is we’re not going to have the same look next year, in terms of having five or six vets,” coach Steve Kerr says. “We’re going to be younger. We’re going to have more youth, more energy to help us through the regular season.

“But it’s impossible to predict what the roster is going to look like.”

Here is a look at the other six free agents, in alphabetical order, and their chances of returning next season:

Forward/center Kevon Looney (2015 draft pick): Last October, with uncertainty surrounding his future after two hip surgeries, the Warriors declined to pick up his option for 2018-19. In retrospect, they would change that decision. Looney, 22, started six playoff games at center and appeared in all 21 postseason games. He can expect offers, particularly from rebuilding teams, but he loves being a Warrior. His parents also love being a part of this franchise. Though there is a limit to what the Warriors can offer ($2.2 million), they could benefit from other teams wondering if his body can handle the demands of a full-time starter.

Chance that Looney returns: 40 percent.

Guard Patrick McCaw (from the 2016 draft): The Warriors love his composure and his eagerness to play defense, guarding multiple positions. Though he was more effective as a rookie than he was in Year 2, there is no question they want him on board; veteran Andre Iguodala refers to McCaw as the guy who eventually will replace him. McCaw, 22, is a restricted free agent coming off a scary injury to his spine in April. Though he recovered well enough to play limited minutes late in the postseason, that injury might scare off some teams. The Warriors hope so. But all it takes is one team willing to pay more than they’re willing to match.

Chance that McCaw returns: 45 percent.

Center JaVale McGee (re-signed as a free agent last summer): McGee came to the Warriors two seasons ago as a player with specific skills in need of an image makeover. The 7-footer succeeded, becoming a significant contributor to a team that won back-to-back championships. The Warriors were willing to listen to trade offers before the February deadline, but got nothing they liked. So McGee remained and started Games 2, 3 and 4 of The Finals. He is a role player, though, and his effectiveness is limited to about 15 minutes per game. He’s 30, still young enough to be attractive, but the Warriors are eyeing Damian Jones as the heir apparent.

Chance that McGee returns: 15 percent.

Center Zaza Pachulia (re-signed as a free agent last summer): He went from being the most frequent starting center in the regular season to averaging barely one minute per game in the postseason. The upshot is that when the Warriors opt to match up with teams playing smaller, agile centers, Pachulia’s 6-11, 270-pound frame is not the answer. That and his age, 34, all but assure his time with the Warriors has come to an end.

Chance Pachulia returns: 1 percent.

Center/forward David West (re-signed as a free agent last summer): He had a terrific first half, and then tailed off to merely solid over the final three months. No other “big” on the roster can match West’s adroit passing and midrange shooting. He also serves as a locker room sage. He turns 38 in August, though, and is considering retirement. He has indicated to NBC Sports Bay Area that if he were to continue, it would only be with the Warriors. We have reason to believe he is leaning toward moving into the next phase of his life.

Chance that West returns: 10 percent.

Guard/forward Nick Young (signed with the midlevel exception last summer): Young was signed to bolster the team’s 3-point shooting off the bench. The Warriors finished 29th in bench 3-point makes (2.1 per game) without Young in 2016-17. They finished 30th, dead last, with him in 2017-18. As the Warriors went deeper into the postseason, his defense was more useful than his offense. Young’s relatively poor conditioning became a source of humor in the locker room. At age 33, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors bringing him back for another year.

Chance that Young returns: 1 percent.