In appreciation of Zaza Pachulia's time with the Warriors


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.

Steph Curry shares his thoughts on Allen Iverson's 'top five' comment

Steph Curry shares his thoughts on Allen Iverson's 'top five' comment

At NBA All-Star weekend last year, Allen Iverson told Steph Curry that he's in his "top five all day long."

Since then, Iverson repeatedly has said that the Warriors' superstar would be his point guard if he was assembling an all-time starting five.

"You know what's funny -- I have that saved on my phone," Curry told Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes on the latest episode of "All the Smoke" on Showtime (the full show will air this Thursday). "It's crazy. It's crazy, right?

"I ain't never had a big head. That dude who I picked up a lot of game and inspiration from -- he's now looking at my game ...

"Some OGs, they don't want to relinquish the praise. Same way we respect the OGs, we want it both ways. So when you do hear that, that means something."

As Steph said after Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals: "Low-key, I've always wanted to be like Allen Iverson."

It must be killing the three-time NBA champion to be sidelined with the broken left hand, especially on nights like Monday in Portland when he sat on the Warriors' bench while Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard dropped 61 points in an overtime win over the Dubs.

[RELATED: What names did Charles Barkley just call Steph and Klay?]

Now is the perfect time to remind everybody that the two-time NBA MVP averaged 36.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists against the Blazers in the 2019 Western Conference Finals, all while shooting 47 percent overall and nearly 43 percent from deep.

It's safe to assume that Iverson doesn't forget about that, and neither should you.

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Why comparing Warriors' Eric Paschall to Draymond Green should stop


Why comparing Warriors' Eric Paschall to Draymond Green should stop

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The offseason comparisons between Warriors rookie Eric Paschall and star forward Draymond Green made sense. Both were highly successful four-year college basketball players from big-time programs that were taken in the second round of the NBA draft due to concerns of their overall athleticism and their inability to fit in to a traditional position.

Both players supposedly were too undersized to play the power forward position in the NBA, but also not quick or polished enough to be small forwards. Even their physiques had similar builds. So with all of that, comparing the two players before the season began was logical.

But it is not anymore.

The most important caveat is that Green is a three-time All-Star, a Defensive Player of the Year, three-time NBA champion and at one point, was widely considered a top-20 player in the league. Conversely, Paschall is a rookie who has not had a chance to accomplish an NBA resume yet.

Comparing both players seems silly already, and it is unfair to Paschall for creating expectations for that type of success. And yet if the side-by-side comparison is simply regarding how they play, Paschall and Green are completely different in their skillsets and approach to the game. 

On the defensive end, Draymond is one of the best help-side defenders in the modern NBA. He plays a "free safety" type role, using his unique ability to read the opponent's every move while also having the quickness and strength to counter them. Despite being just 6-foot-6, Green is elite at guarding big men in the NBA, while also having the unique ability to defend every position on the court.

Paschall, on the other hand, still is learning to play defense at the NBA level, and even with that, has shown to be more of a one-on-one defender so far. While he is more accustomed to guarding the power forward position, he has had impressive defensive moments defending "straight up" against wings, sliding his feet and using his strength to force them into tough shots.

It will take time for Paschall to develop from a good defender into the great one that many think he is capable of becoming. Regardless, his current projection does not have him playing the same defensive style as Green.

On offense, the contrast between the two is even greater. Green became one of the most unique offensive threats in the game as a great playmaker in transition and out of the pick-and-roll. His ability to push the ball full speed in the fast break and expose slow opposing big men helped pave the way for the Warriors' "Death Lineup" that revolutionized small-ball.

At his peak, Green was a 39 percent 3-point shooter, but scored most of his points on the break attacking the hoop. His elite passing ability helped him rack up assists, where he could spread the ball around to the greatest shooters of all-time surrounding him. 

[RELATED: Why Dubs are in power position with Burks at trade deadline]

While Paschall has shown glimpses of impressive playmaking talent, his real bread and butter so far in the NBA has been dominating opponents one-on-one. He is remarkably explosive jumping off two feet, and he is able to combine his great strength with unique finesse when finishing over defenders at the rim. His shooting is very inconsistent from deep, just like Draymond, but he still is refining a mid-range pull-up that keeps defenders honest.

For being only a few months into this NBA career, Paschall already has become a "throw the ball to him and clear out of the way" type talent on offense. While Paschall might never be the type of offensive quarterback like Green, he already is on his way to becoming a more dynamic scoring threat.

Draymond will continue to take Paschall under his wing and teach him the nuances of the game. But when all is said and done, the two Warriors will complement each other very nicely on the court with their own personal skills and differentiated abilities, rather than repetitive and possibly gratuitous similarities.