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.

Pelicans GM Dell Demps weighs in on DeMarcus Cousins joining Warriors

Pelicans GM Dell Demps weighs in on DeMarcus Cousins joining Warriors

It was 17 months ago when DeMarcus Cousins was traded from Sacramento to New Orleans, the newest member of the Pelicans, bringing unquestioned basketball gifts but burdened by an image that weighed about three tons.

That load is considerably lighter now. The Pelicans were good for Cousins and he was, according to New Orleans general manager Dell Demps, good for them.

“We were having success, and things are good when you’re winning games,” Demps said Wednesday on The Warriors Insider Podcast. “A lot of times, when you’re losing games things become magnified. There’s fuel on the fire.

“I don’t know what happened in Sacramento . . . but I know his time with us, we had success with him. It was a good run.”

Yet when Cousins became a free agent in July, discussions with the Pelicans didn’t advance past the conversation stage. So the 6-foot-11 center reached out to the Warriors and ended up leaving New Orleans.

“I understand,” Cousins, looking back on his time with the Pelicans, said in a Showtime video clip released Wednesday. “They had a big year. They don’t want to ruin it taking a chance on me. I’m a damaged player. Cool.”

In Sacramento for the better part of seven productive years that were by turns trying and turbulent, Cousins’ first full season in New Orleans was arguably the best of his career. He was averaging 25.2 points on 47-percent shooting (35.4 percent from deep), a career-high 12.9 rebounds and a career-high 5.4 assists when he sustained a torn left Achilles’ tendon on Jan 26.

That injury cost Cousins his first appearance in the postseason.

The injury, which can take up to a year to fully heal, occurred in the final seconds of a 115-113 victory over the Rockets that was the seventh win in eight games for New Orleans. Cousins had posted a triple-double: 15 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

“When he was injured, we were fourth in the West,” Demps said. “It was a sad day. There was a cloud over the city, for a little while.

“But we wish (Cousins) nothing but the best. He’s a good guy, he’s a tough guy, he’s going to compete and he’s an incredible basketball player.

Demps cited Cousins’ relationship with Pelicans star Anthony Davis as being a factor in easing Cousins’ transition to New Orleans. Though Cousins still played with plenty of emotion last season, he averaged one technical foul every 4.8 games, the lowest ratio since 2011-12, his second season with the Kings.

His popularity increased to a level that he received a standing ovation when shown on the scoreboard during Game 3 of the first-round series between the Pelicans and Trail Blazers. That was followed by chants of “Boogie, Boogie, Boogie.”

The Warriors hope that showing can be repeated sometime next season. Cousins likely will miss much of the early season, but hopes to return, healthy and active, before the next calendar year.

As for the concerns about Cousins adversely impacting the Warriors fast-paced style of play -- he’s known to do his best work in the half court -- Demps offered a bit of a rebuttal.

“We played with pace, with DeMarcus,” he said. “When he went out, I think we were sixth in pace. He’ll be fine. Talent has a way of just figuring it out.”

For the record, the Pelicans were indeed sixth in pace. They did, however, speed it up to another level after Cousins went down. They finished No. 1.

DeMarcus Cousins unfazed over potential backlash from joining Warriors

DeMarcus Cousins unfazed over potential backlash from joining Warriors

Do you want to know what the NBA free agency process was like for DeMarcus Cousins?

If yes, you're in luck.

SHOWTIME Sports is in production on a documentary that gives you an inside look at how Cousins ended up signing with the Warriors.

On Wednesday, a preview clip was released (watch the full video below).

"This is my ace of spade, this was my nuclear bomb, my last resort," Cousins said. "Yeah, I could have probably got a contract -- a decent contract -- from a bad team. But how does that help me?

"I'm already fighting a career-ending injury. I'm not gonna put myself in an already-bad situation and try to prove my value or my worth as a player in a situation that's not looking to win.

"I knew how it would be perceived by some. I didn't give a f**k. ... I knew what my ace was, and we made the call."

Cousins' introductory press conference is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. Watch it live on NBC Sports Bay Area.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller