OAKLAND – When told last week that coach Steve Kerr said he was as happy about the Warriors obtaining Zaza Pachulia as he was about mega acquisition Kevin Durant, general manager Bob Myers broke into laughter.
A hearty laugh it was, understandably so because Durant is headed for the Hall of Fame and Pachulia is a veteran center with maybe two or three years left in a solid NBA career.
But Kerr may have a point. As great Durant is – and he truly changes the game – Pachulia is the only proven center on the roster and he happens to bring an intellect that meshes with the Warriors’ desire to “think the game.”
“I think Zaza will be a coach in the NBA,” Kerr said, “if he wants to go that route.”
Pachulia is, on the surface, a great fit for the Warriors. And he’s eager to use his mind, which happens to sit inside maybe the biggest skull in the NBA.
“We should use our experience,” said Pachulia, entering his 14th season. “We should use our brains more. That’s why we need to be on the same page, to read each other without making any calls. It’s kind of next level.”
Kerr is among the growing legion of NBA coaches who would prefer to install an offensive system from which the players can riff, rather than call plays from the sideline. This was good enough to win 140 games and a championship over the past two seasons.
So having Pachulia aboard, replacing the high-intellect Andrew Bogut, brings a bit of serenity to the coach.
“You love it when you get a guy like David (West) or Zaza, who not only have the years and the experience but the really, really impressive intelligence and knowhow and wisdom,” Kerr said. “I love what David and Zaza are adding to our group.”
Pachulia and West add not only smarts but also toughness. There might not be a bigger brawl than one that might take place between the two of them – who last season engaged in a brief bump-and-bark session and had to be separated.
“We’re not kids,” Pachulia said, grinning. “This is a business. We don’t need to talk about what happened last year.
“We’re teammates now. We represent this team. We’re professionals. We’ve got each other’s back now, two tough guys together, for this team.”
Though Pachulia doesn’t bring the rim-protecting dimension that is such a big part of Bogut’s game, the new big man may be able to offer something he predecessor did not: The occasional jump shot, if only to keep defenses honest.
“Pick and pop,” he said, “because I’ll set a lot of screens for these guys, and they’re going to get a lot of attention from the defense. I’ll find my game. It’s definitely going to come. We’re going to complement each other.”