Zaza Pachulia was the People’s Choice. The Warriors center received 1,528,941 votes from fans eager to see him start in the NBA All-Star Game.
Pachulia in the final fan voting announced Thursday finished behind only teammate Kevin Durant among frontcourt players in the Western Conference. Zaza had more votes than Spurs star Kawhi Leonard (1,058,941) or Pelicans star Anthony Davis (974,802), both of whom will be starting for the West.
With an extremely strong showing from voters in his native land, the Republic of Georgia, Pachulia finished precisely 613,068 votes ahead of Warriors teammate Draymond Green, who was an All-Star last season.
Yet Pachulia won’t join the All-Stars that flock to New Orleans from Feb. 16-19. The NBA prior to the season changed the voting procedure to ensure fans didn’t have complete control of the starting lineups.
Once the province of fan voting, the starting lineups are determined by a combination of fan voting (50 percent), player voting (25 percent) and media voting (25 percent). This way, a strong showing among fans hardly ensures a starting spot.
Some refer to this alteration as The Zaza Rule, as it was instituted Pachulia nearly made the team last season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
And Pachulia is OK with that. He made it clear weeks ago, when his numbers were dwarfing those of players who have made multiple All-Star appearances, the most important aspect of the voting was not how he finished but the incredible support of his fellow Georgians.
“It’s such an overwhelming situation,” Pachulia said a couple weeks ago. “You’re not talking about a couple of thousand (votes). There’s hundreds of thousands. And with such a small country like Georgia, there are only 3.5 million people. The whole country’s involved in it.”
Pachulia, in fact, saw the humor in the matter. He knows his stats don’t compare to those of the league’s elite big men. He knows there is no single element of his game that the average fan would find irresistible.
He even knows he doesn’t belong in the NBA’s showcase game, with many of the players destined for the Hall of Fame.
“It’s just happening. All I can do is just sit back and enjoy and be thankful -- be really thankful -- for all of this,” Pachulia said. “Because I’m telling you, like you can get as mad as you want, you can be as happy as you want, but you can’t buy this. This is a special moment and I really appreciate the support. And that’s what I care about.
“I don’t care about being an All-Star, the fame that comes with it, the recognition that comes with it. I care about the support and the love I’m getting.”
Believe him. He’d prefer to enjoy the time with his family even more than he would have enjoyed the game itself.