Warriors

Why Zaza Pachulia 'excited' to be back in new role with Warriors

Why Zaza Pachulia 'excited' to be back in new role with Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Warriors celebrated the opening of Chase Center on Tuesday, an old friend was enjoying his first day on a new job at the new arena. 

Former Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who played with Golden State for two seasons from 2016 through 2018, is back with the organization as a consultant. 

"It's great to be back," Pachulia told NBC Sports Bay Area.  "So many familiar faces. ... Today's my first day in the office in my new job, so I'm very excited." 

In his new role, the 16-year NBA veteran will work in both the basketball and business sides of the organization, helping the team with community events. 

Pachulia signed with the Warriors three years ago, and the Georgian big man won back-to-back titles in his two seasons with the team. He spent last season with the Detroit Pistons, and Pachulia now returns to a much different team than the one he left.

Star forward Kevin Durant opted to sign with the Brooklyn Nets two months ago in free agency, and that prompted a trade to acquire All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell from the Nets. Russell is one of just eight new players on the roster, while Klay Thompson -- Pachulia's onetime teammate and permanent comedic foil -- is expected to be sidelined until midseason after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. 

Still, Pachulia believes Golden State will contend this season.

"I was taking a tour around the Chase Center the other day and went to the locker room and there are a lot of younger guys ... and a perfect opportunity for them to prove ... to show themselves," Pachulia said. "It's going to be an interesting year. They have a great coaching staff -- one of the best in the business -- and I'm sure coach [Steve] Kerr will use those players in the right way."

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As for Thompson, Pachulia thinks his former teammate will be effective when he returns to the floor. 

"I know he's in good spirits," Pachulia said. "He's enjoying his time. I'm sure he's feeling better because I saw his dance moves at the [Chicago Cubs] game." 

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors-Lakers rivalry doesn't really exist

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USATSI

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors-Lakers rivalry doesn't really exist

LOS ANGELES -- Standing in the lobby of UCLA's Mo Ostin Center, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found himself in a unique scenario in his latest trip to Southern California. 

During his coaching tenure, he's won 80 percent of his games against the team he grew up rooting for, including 10 of the last 12 matchups. Now, in a trend Kerr knows all too well, his team seems to be declining as the Lakers are ascending, prompting a familiar question from the coach Wednesday afternoon.

"Have the Warriors and Lakers ever been up at the same time in the history of our league?"

The current iteration of each team's roster indicates the answer is a resounding "no." Four months ago, Los Angeles acquired all-star big man Anthony Davis, pairing him with LeBron James to form one of the league's best duos. Additionally, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka surrounded the core with two-way veterans like Avery Bradley and Danny Green. 

Meanwhile, Golden State's season remains in peril. No longer the prohibitive favorites to win the title, the Warriors have fallen from contention altogether. In five months, they have lost vital pieces, including Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and superstar guard Steph Curry to injury. By Wednesday evening, Golden State could conceivably suit up just nine players at Staples Center. 

The current circumstances mirror the history between both teams. In four postseason matchups, the Lakers have never lost. When the Warriors won their first title on the West Coast in 1975, the Lakers failed to make the postseason. Twelve years later, when the teams played in the first round of the 1987 postseason, the top-seeded Lakers took care of the fifth-ranked Warriors in five games. Four years later, the eighth-seeded Warriors lost again in the first round in four games. 

Fast forward to 2015-2019, where the Warriors won three titles in five years while the Lakers were rebuilding, failing to reach the playoffs over that stretch. The course seemed to change 16 months ago, when superstar forward LeBron James signed with the team in free agency. Los Angeles responded by a 20-14 start, including a 127-101 Christmas Day drubbing of the Warriors at Oracle Arena. 

Then a groin injury -- suffered in the matchup against the Warriors -- sidelined James for much of the season. Adding to the peril, front office turmoil led to the resignation of Vice President Magic Johnson before the season finale and the eventual ousting of coach Luke Walton. 
 
"It looked to me like they were going to be pretty good," Kerr said. "And then they had their own challenges with injuries and other stuff."

Now, Lakers are on top. Following a victory Tuesday night in Phoenix, they're at the top of the Western Conference. Davis -- who isn't expected to play Wednesday night against Golden State -- is averaging 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, while James continues to be one of the league's best players, solidifying one of the best cores in the league. 

"It's not surprising," Kerr admitted. "LeBron is one of the best passers in the history of the game. He's got Anthony to work with as a pick-and-pop guy, as a lob threat. You talk about two of the most talented players in the game and they both have great feels so it's not at all surprising."

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Hope may be on the way for Golden State to balance the matchup going forward. Curry, Green and Thompson are all expected to be healthy by the start of next season, bringing back the core formidable enough to go against Los Angeles. 

"They've been good for a long time," Kerr said. "And they're good again and we're trying to get there."

Warriors coach very impressed with Eric Paschall in one specific area

Warriors coach very impressed with Eric Paschall in one specific area

Considering what the expectations were, Eric Paschall has been nothing short of fantastic so far this season.

The rookie is averaging 15.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting just under 53 percent from the field.

“His work ethic has been impressive from the jump,” Warriors assistant coach Theo Robertson -- who works closely with Paschall -- told Ethan Strauss of The Athletic. “His goal this season was to get on the floor and to this point he’s done everything necessary to facilitate that.

"We spend a ton of time watching film. I’ve been very impressed by his IQ. He’s been well-coached and sees the game.

"Moreover, his ability to apply concepts or teaching points immediately has been very impressive. He can execute a game plan and really understands the ‘why’ in a lot of things.”

Paschall -- who turned 23 years old last week -- spent five years in college, and greatly benefitted by playing for Villanova coach Jay Wright.

He constantly communicates on the defensive end and knows where to be.

As Strauss writes:

Synergy Sports grades Paschall out as “very good” on defense so far, which is tough to do on a Warriors team that’s putting up historically bad defensive efficiency numbers.

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Ultimately, it doesn't matter if Paschall starts or comes off the bench. He's going to play around 30 minutes per night.

But moving forward, hopefully we will get to see Paschall share the floor as much as possible with Draymond Green. Those two need to learn each other's tendencies and develop chemistry on both ends of the floor, and that can't happen when the rookie checks into the game for the three-time All-Star.

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