Q&A: Zaza Pachulia

Courtesy of Connor Letourneau

Last month, you got the chance to bring the trophy back to Georgia. What was that like?

“Obviously, everything started with the support I’ve been getting over these years. If it was something people didn’t take serious, I wouldn’t have done that. It was just because there was so much support and love. So many people have been watching our games without sleep, because so many of our games start at 6:30 in the morning out there. I thought, ‘You know what? Those people deserve to celebrate this trophy.’ That was the whole idea. I don’t know. I’m really glad I made the decision. I thought about it. The Warriors helped me make my dreams come true, taking the trophy back home for a couple days. I got amazing feedback. It was an amazing experience. Moments that I’m never going to forget, honestly. It was way more than I was expecting.

“We had a rally in the Sports Palace. It’s where we play basketball games. It was live on TV. I think it was like 8,000 people. It was almost full. Also, I took the trophy in different places. I think it was really well organized, where I touched every aspect of people. The trophy was at my basketball academy, where the kids could come and I was there. I had a meeting with startup companies. … I just met up with other startups. That was one of my favorite events, actually. The toughest was at the Sports Palace, where I had to talk in front of all the thousands of people and the millions of people watching on TV. I was nervous because government people were there, obviously my family, friends and a lot of fans. It was pretty tough. I didn’t prepare for the speech. I’m that type of person. I think you’ve just got to go out there and be you. It was very emotional and very special. Just let things come from your heart. I trust my knowledge. I trust my ability to talk. I trust my education. Just let it come out from your heart. The whole process lasted about an hour. I came out with the trophy and put it all in place. I thanked all the coaches I had in my career and all the people who had a real impact. There were so many people that helped me get from there to here. I didn’t have that much time, but I just touched upon all the people that really did something special for me in my career.”

What in particular resonated with you about that trip?

“I’m really happy that I touched all kinds of people out there. Anybody has a chance to be successful. … I think it was really a successful summer for me, where I made a lot of people happy over there. It was a special summer. Summer is normally time to go back home and spend time with friends and family. Trust me, that wasn’t the case. I saw my mom maybe once or twice. Out of the two times, one time was when I brought her on stage for the trophy presentation event. I brought her up on the stage to thank her. She understood. I think it was a great time for me to be presenting and saying ‘success can come from anywhere.’ Whether you’re from Georgia or what have you, it doesn’t matter. As long as you have a good mentality, the right habits in terms of believing in yourself and believing in your talent, anything can happen. Even if I help one person in Georgia, I’ll be happy. All this work and time I’ve dedicated, I’ll be proud because Georgia is a small country.”

What went into the decision to re-sign with Golden State?

“They wanted to show their interest again for me to come back. It was a great thing. Just like last year, just wanting that from a team like the Warriors. Actually, it gives me more confidence now, because they didn’t know me as a person, even though they did their homework. They didn’t know what kind of player and person I was on and off the court. But now, they witnessed it themselves for a full year. Even before free agency started, they told me they wanted me back. Free agency started, and it was the same thing. We were very fortunate to be in that situation. It took some time because I was shocked with the contract Steph signed. I was kind of counting all the zeroes. It’s not like I’m questioning anything, but I was just kind of busy counting zeroes. Once I finished counting zeroes, I said, “OK, I’m going to stay here.” It took me a couple days.”

Did you talk to any other teams before you signed?

“I respected the free agency. I respected the process. I looked around and saw the offers. I did have offers. I did have interest from some different teams. Ultimately, I said, ‘That was great. Let’s do it again.’ I’m excited to be back.”

What do you think about what’s gone on this summer with Cleveland and Boston? Do you think you guys are in a better position than you were a year ago?

“I believe you should only focus on the things that you can control. I couldn’t care less about what’s going on with other teams. You should worry about your team chemistry, worry about being in shape, taking care of yourself. You should worry about the preseason training camp and everything else. I’m saying this because there’s no doubt we have the best team in the NBA. We should worry about ourselves. If you do that, if you pay attention and take care of that, you have a great chance of winning a second championship in a row. Obviously, you need to scout and pay attention to personalities when you’re playing games, but in the longer picture, you have to take care of business. We have great talent. We have great players. I’d say I was more worried about last year. We had so many new players, and you never know how it’s going to turn out. Now it’s working. I’m expecting a better year honestly, at least for me. Last year was a difficult start. I was adjusting to a lot, and I didn’t know what to expect. Now I’m more confident. I think we’re going to be better this year.”

What about Kevin Durant taking less money to keep the team intact? What does that say about him?

“Obviously, it’s a personal decision. It only shows what kind of person he is. He’s all about enjoying it, but also about winning. We enjoy it because we’re winning. He’s a great human being. Aside from being an amazing player, he’s a great human being. He knows what he wants to do, and he’s just doing it. Not everybody’s capable of making that same decision, trust me. I’ve been in this league for a long time. Looking at different players, not everybody’s built the same way. KD’s showed a special personality. I have a lot of respect for him. I’m sure he’s not looking back. He just made a decision, and he’ll just try to do it again. It’s all about enjoying it. It’s all about feeling good and loving your job. If you’re not enjoying your job, you can’t be successful. There’s no way. He enjoys it, I can tell.”

What do you think about the three new guys coming in: Omri (Casspi), Nick Young and Jordan Bell?

“All good guys. Obviously, I know Omri. I’ve played against Nick a lot over the years. I met the rook, Jordan. We were working out together over the summer. He fits the personality we have as a team. He definitely fits. I’m happy for him. At the same time, I’m going to miss my guys (James Michael) McAdoo, Ian Clark and Matt Barnes. Great guys and older players. But this is a business obviously, so what can you do? The important thing is they have a ring at least. But I’m excited to play with these new guys. I think they’re going to be a huge part of this team, especially Nick and Omri. The rook, he’s young and has a lot of years ahead of him. For him, it’s all about getting better. He’s coming from a program where they have a winning mentality. He just has to learn the NBA game, and he should be fine. He has a body, the athleticism. Now it’s all about the coaches and veteran players teaching him the right moves.”

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