Zaza Pachulia: Dirty Player or the Golden State Warriors’ MVP?

Zaza Pachulia Saves the Warriors' season
Photo Credit To SFChronicle Twitter Feed

Forget about Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, Zaza Pachulia has single-handedly assured the Golden State Warriors’ survival in the Western Conference Finals.

In the event that Golden State Warriors end this season as NBA Champions, they’ll have Zaza Pachulia to thank for. The Georgian journeyman center has averaged 6.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists this season. Yes, these averages are less than mediocre. However, the Warriors wouldn’t be looking at a 2-0 series lead against Spurs were it not for Pachulia. No, he didn’t turn into Dirk Nowitzki overnight in the Western Conference Finals. Instead, he took out arguably the best player in the Western Conference through what some people deem as a “dirty play”. As a result, Pachulia has found himself in the center of controversy with people calling him a dirty player. With that said, is there any merit to these accusations?

A history of violence?

After their game 1 loss, coach Gregg Popovich addressed the media regarding Pachulia’s alleged dirty play. Short of calling him a dirty player, Pop scathingly pointed out his actions in the past two years. Pop noted that while he has no idea of the intent, the play was still dirty. He then went on to list down the instances that Pachulia had exhibited unsportsmanlike behavior. A flagrant foul on Patty Mills last year in Dallas. Nasty exchanges with David West that also happened last year. There was also the time that he almost took out Kawhi Leonard’s arm diving for the loose ball.

Going by just these examples really doesn’t establish the fact that Zaza Pachulia is a dirty player. Thankfully, there are a ton of video evidence that support the allegation. One that stands out would be his hard foul and staredown of Russell Westbrook this season. Another would be of him tangling with Nikola Mirotic when he still played with the Milwaukee Bucks. Also, there was that incident where he kicked Danny Green in the face (when he was with Dallas). Going back a little further, he also exhibited the same dirty tendencies when he was with Atlanta. In a game against the Heat, he tried to trip Udonis Haslem and promptly got called for a technical.

Intent can’t be proven

People who defend Zaza Pachulia will say that his intent to harm can’t be proven. Of course, these are the same people who think Draymond Green’s proclivity to kick isn’t intentional either. The problem with this argument is that there’s already enough evidence against Pachulia. You just need to look at the videos of the incidents I enumerated earlier. This is clearly a man who will do anything to take an opposing player out of the game.

Others also point out that Zaza Pachulia is just uncoordinated. Paired with his aggressive play, this can result to incidents like in game 1 of the WCF. Personally though, I think this is a load of crap. Pachulia won’t last as long as he has in the NBA if he were really as uncoordinated as most people think. No, he just doesn’t have any regard for the safety of his opponents. Period.

Again, the plays that I enumerated earlier give proof of that. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t mean to hurt other players when he’s been doing the opposite his whole career. Like Pop said, people still get charged for manslaughter if they run over and kill other people while driving at top speed. They might not have intended to kill but it can’t be denied that their actions caused someone’s death.

Golden State’s road to the Finals just got easier

Ultimately, the debate on whether Zaza Pachulia is a dirty player or not is moot. It’s not going to change the fact that the Warriors are likely going to steamroll the Spurs. Golden State is now up 2-0 in their Western Conference Finals series. Game 3 is scheduled tomorrow at San Antonio. Unfortunately, playing at home might not matter as much. Kawhi Leonard is still out indefinitely. The way the Spurs are playing without their star player though, they might as well be playing in Oakland. Really, the only consolation the Spurs have is that Pachulia is also out with a heel injury. Considering how he’s not really a threat offensively though, that’s not much of a consolation.

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