Zaza Pachulia nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NBA All-Star history.
With support from his home country of Georgia, as the president helped gain support for Pachulia’s All-Star campaign, along with a savvy social media strategy, the 13-year NBA veteran collected 768,112 votes, fourth most among Western Conference front court players.
Just seven months ago, Milwaukee shipped Pachulia to the Mavericks for a future second round pick. During his first season in Dallas, the 31-year-old is averaging 10 points, 10.7 rebounds (seventh most in the NBA), 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game.
The unprecedented support for Pachulia made him one of the most unlikely All-Star candidates in league history.
Although Pachulia didn’t make it to Toronto for the All-Star game, he is ready to help the Mavericks make another deep run into the playoffs, as he has collected 10 or more rebounds in five of his last seven appearances and is one of the most efficient shooters for the Mavericks.
He has shown a penchant for scoring out of the pick-and-roll in Dallas, as he is scoring a point per game as the roll man.
Prior to Friday’s game in Orlando, Shatter the Glass caught up with Pachulia to discuss his unexpected All-Star vote total, what he believes the Mavericks have the best organization in the NBA and much more.
Starting with the question you’ve probably heard a million times, but what was it like to receive so much fan support for the All-Star game this season?
(Laughs) Oh wow, I haven’t heard that question for a while. It felt great, obviously. It’s always great as an athlete, espeically as an NBA player, to get all of that support from your fans, from your current fans and your country. That was a huge honor, the voting process. It’s been fun, honestly, I was having fun with it. When you see your name up there, it’s just a great feeling. I’m so thankful and I appreciate all of those votes.
You fell just short of securing enough fan votes to make it to Toronto, so how did you spend your time during the All-Star break?
I spent time with the family. The month of January was so hard for us, we played 19 games in a span of 32 games, so I felt a little fatigue. I was tired and a little banged up, but it was great to have a couple of off days to recharge and get my energy level back. I’m ready for the second half of the season.
Did you watch all of the events?
Of course. It was great. Especially the 3-point Contest and the Skills Contest. It was great to see the big men participating and then winning. So it was great. I was part of the big man team. The Dunk Contest was amazing. It was a lot of fun, I watched it with my kids. It was a great event.
Did you like the extended All-Star break? The last two years, there has been over a week between games.
When you are talking about a veteran team, it helps. Dirk Nowitzki had a great quote, he said “When you old, it’s never too much.” It was great to have some time to rest, and then some time to start working out again. It’s not like you are jumping right into a game again after taking just two or three days off. I had a short break, then I went back to the gym, started doing some cardio and some rehab stuff.
How do you balance resting and getting rust?
I think experience leads to that. Nobody knows yourself better than you do, so it depends on if you are a hard-worker or just lazy. It’s a process and you have to be smart. You know your body best and you know what you need to get back and get ready. There may be some rust because we haven’t played, but you have to play through it. We haven’t played in 10 days, but we have 27 games left. It starts today. We have to have the best second half possible and start getting ready for the playoffs.
What is the key for Dallas to have the best second half possible?
It’s just little things. The coaches had some great comments and some great tips for us. It’s just to concentrate on the little things. We have been in so many close games and one of them was the last one. We were up on Utah for three quarters and then the game became tighter. Then we were up, they forced it to overtime. Again, we were up, then they hit a buzzer beater (3-pointer) to force overtime. Then in overtime they hit the game-winning shot (the Jazz won 121-119 in Dallas on Feb. 9). One little thing could have helped us win that game. When you are in the playoffs, you have to be in the best shape you can possibly be as a group.
How would you describe coach Rick Carlisle? What is different about him compared to some of your other coaches?
For me, it’s a privilege to work with him and the coaching staff. It’s a lot of learning and for me as a player, I can be proud that I have them to mentor me in my career. You want to play for the best, and you want to play with the best teammates and the best franchise possible. Being here fits all of those categories. I feel privileged to be here. It’s been a lot of hard work and this team is all about a winning mentality. You better have the same mentality if you play for the Mavs.
Last question, what do you think you need to do next year to make sure you are one of the top-3 vote getters in the Western Conference?
(Laughs) Again, there are some things that I can control and that is one of the things that I can’t control. I’m more of a team player, honestly. I’m never going to be one of the individual players that scores 20 or 30 points a game. I care more about helping this team do all of the things — big man stuff — that makes the things easier for my teammates. If the fans want to keep voting, I can’t stop them, obviously. I’m just thankful to them. At the end of the day, I’m worried more about my team. There are players that deserve to be an All-Star, and I don’t deserve to be an All-Star. Whatever happens, happens. Having team success is way more important than being an All-Star, honestly. I didn’t make it, but for me, it felt like I did. I have never been this close, and I appreciate the process and appreciate all of the love that I got.