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.

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry in NBA playoffs

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry in NBA playoffs

OAKLAND — Steve Kerr’s latest request of Steph Curry is short, simple and initially puzzling: Let ‘em score.

Three words, easily understood, but completely against the competitive instincts of an elite NBA player conditioned to accept defense as an essential part of the game.

Kerr isn’t telling Curry to neglect defense. Rather, the coach is advising his superstar to weigh his overall value to the Warriors in the NBA playoffs against the significance of committing fouls in hopes of preventing two points.

“Sometimes, he just gets in the habit of trying to strip the ball,” Kerr said Tuesday after practice. “So, more than anything, it’s just about trying to get him past that habit. I keep telling him how valuable he is. I’d much rather he just got out of the guy’s way and gave him a layup and kept playing.

“He’s much more valuable than two points. And we’ve got plenty of help; our defense is predicated on help.”

This, in the big picture, makes sense. While the Warriors seek to close out the Clippers in Game 5 of their first-round series Wednesday, advancing likely means getting a dose of potent Houston.

Anyone care to imagine Curry on the bench with foul trouble against the Rockets?

Curry’s impact against Los Angeles was neutralized by foul trouble in Games 3 and 4. Though having him on the bench for long stretches, saddled with foul trouble, is not ideal in this series, it would invite disaster should the Warriors advance and face Houston.

After committing four or more fouls just four times over the final 27 games of the regular season, Curry has been whistled at least that often in every game against LA. Picking up five fouls in Game 3, including his fourth early in the third quarter, limited him to 20 minutes.

So Curry, prior to Game 4, put a message on his shoes, “No Reach” -- a reminder to avoid a tendency that usually is his quickest route to foul trouble.

“I have confidence in my hand-eye coordination and hand speed,” Curry said. “That’s how I get steals usually, by being quick. But that’s how I get fouls, too, so I’ve got to balance both of them.

“The ones I’ve had trouble with in this series are ones that I shouldn’t even be in that situation to begin with. There’s help behind the play. I’m not even involved in the play, really. I’m just kind of lunging at it. That’s just a lack of focus.

“We could nitpick each one of them and understand exactly why. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to continue to stay on the floor on our normal rotations and not foul.”

There was progress in Game 4 insofar as Curry generally avoided reaching. And when he committed his third foul with 4:16 left in the first half, Kerr stayed with him.

Curry rewarded the coach by playing the rest of the half and the entire third quarter without a whistle. He played 35 minutes, committing four fouls.

Moreover, the Warriors won both games.

[RELATED: Beverley explains why he doesn't talk trash to Curry]

“If he’s got a couple fouls already, he should be able to play with those fouls,” Kerr said. “I’ve always trusted him. Since I’ve been here, I’ve generally played him with two fouls in the first half or three in the third quarter. I believe in letting a guy go, letting him play, a star player like that especially. The second half was a great sign that he’s kind of made it past that habit.”

The Warriors would like to think so.

They’d like to believe that building better habits in this series will make them stronger in the next one. History has shown they are strongest with Curry on the floor.

Richard Jefferson offers opinion on Kevin Durant's comments about media

Richard Jefferson offers opinion on Kevin Durant's comments about media

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Wednesday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Richard Jefferson gets paid to talk about basketball and express his opinions.

Over the last couple of years, he hasn't shied away from discussing his feelings about the Warriors and/or Kevin Durant.

On Tuesday, he was a guest on ESPN's show "The Jump" and KD's recent comments about the media was obviously a topic of conversation.

"You go back and look at the history of the game -- Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the amount of pressure that they had to save this league; Michael Jordan, no player to me has ever had so much weight on his shoulders; then you go forward to Kobe Bryant after the post-Jordan era; then all of a sudden Kobe kind of faded away because LeBron James was in the prime of his career.

"If you want that 'Best player, I'm going to be the guy to hold this league down the next five years' (title), you need to be able to handle this better than how he (Durant) has," Jefferson said. "We need you, the game of basketball needs you to be better at this."

So what did KD say exactly?

“They need me. If I wasn’t a free agent, none of this s--t would go on, right?" the reigning two-time Finals MVP told NBC Sports Bay Area's Logan Murdock. “ None of this speculation about who I am, what’s wrong with my mental, why I’m miserable, why I ain’t happy with life. Nothing.”

Last summer, Durant elected to sign another "1+1" contract with the Warriors in order to maintain flexibility and possess the option to become a free agent again this summer. Ever since, there has been rampant speculation about his future and incessant discussion about his state of mind.

Back in mid-November, Steph Curry said: "With how active our guys are on social media, it’s hard not to see that stuff. But it tests your character, makes you figure out how to compartmentalize stuff. Either you take it as entertainment or you get influenced by it. Whatever you think, however you are in real life, in terms of how impressionable you are, how insecure you might be, how confident in yourself you might be, that’ll all reflect in how you handle it.”

Things boiled over for Durant in early February when the 10-time All-Star broke his silence and lashed out at the media following the Warriors' win over the Spurs.

[RELATEDJerry West believes Warriors' weak point is very obvious]

Jefferson has the utmost respect for KD the basketball player, but believes he needs to tweak his approach to reporters.

"I think he's on the Mount Rushmore of this generation," Jefferson added. "But make no mistake, the game of basketball -- which has provided for me, all of us, all of our families and his -- needs him to be able to handle this better because that's what the title of 'king' means.

"When you are the king, when you are No. 1, that means you have a ton more responsibility that you have to handle or you're not fit for that."

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