How Milwaukee Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Zaza Pachulia


How could you not love Zaza Pachulia? This is the question I found myself asking over and over again since my introduction to the world of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Let me get sidetracked before we go any further. I’m an Atlanta Hawks fan (sorry, I’m genuinely growing to love these Bucks more with every passing day though), and as a result I’m incredibly well-versed in the works of the man born Zaur Pachulia.

Now in his twelfth year in the NBA, Pachulia, a native of Europe’s Caucasus state of Georgia, spent eight of those seasons representing the Hawks, of the United States’ very own state of Georgia.

During that time Atlanta’s fans got to know Big Z. He may not be the most talented or athletic player to ever have stepped foot in the NBA, but there’s something truly unique about Pachulia.

He has a hunger and a desire to win, and has stretched his existing skill-set to such an extreme that he is now one of the most underrated big men in the league.

He’s an exceptional passing center. He’s an automatic free-throw shooter. He’s a tenacious defender. Perhaps most important of all though is the fact that Pachulia is incredibly smart. In the mental war of attrition that is the NBA, it’s rare to find Pachulia less than a couple of steps ahead of his opponent.

That was on evidence against Cleveland on Sunday when Zaza’s theatrics not only drew a foul on Timofey Mozgov, but frustrated him enough to draw a technical also.

There was more evidence of this in that epic final play in last night’s victory over Miami too. Not only did Pachulia show himself to simply want the ball more than his opponents, but he also had the wherewithal to know exactly where Khris Middleton would be to drain the game-winner.

That moment of exceptional triumph came off the back of an outstanding stretch of games from the Georgian center too.


In his last eight games, Pachulia has averaged 13.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals along with shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 86.6 percent from the free throw line.

That’s not to mention his record breaking offensive rebounding performance in Brooklyn on Friday night either.

The fact that all of this has come this late in the season, and at a stage when the Bucks have really been struggling is no coincidence. Pachulia is stepping up into a greater leadership role, and with the Playoffs now almost in sight, his competitive juices are well and truly flowing.

You see, there’s perhaps nobody in the league who gets more fired up for the post-season than Zaza. Just ask Kevin Garnett…

or Jason Richardon…

Both of these moves may not have led to ultimate success for those Hawks’ teams, but they helped create a mindset that’s vital for the underdog to succeed.

Pachulia is the ultimate irritant for opponents, and there aren’t many greater energizers for a home crowd than that.

Want an example? Let me take you back to 2008 and Atlanta’s Philips Arena. After the Hawks picked up a vital Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics to extend an already tense series (see Garnett video above), Pachulia grabbed a microphone and took to centercourt.

In his own brand of, at the time, broken English, Pachulia proclaimed: “Nothing Easy!”, and in arguably his most endearing moment on US soil proceeded to drill the fans up for Game 7.

It’s one of the many reasons Pachulia was loved in Atlanta, and it makes it easy to see why Bucks’ fans are finally warming to the veteran big man.

Remember, Pachulia isn’t your average NBA bruiser and enforcer in the paint.

This is the guy who’s one of the most fashionable players in the NBA.

Zaza is also a successful restauranteur.

Then let’s not forget the incredible story of Zaza buying the Bucks’ old Bradley Center floor to ship back to his homeland and have it installed in a youth gym near his hometown of Tbilisi.

Pachulia is no ordinary man or player, and perhaps that’s how he keeps rising to the occasion in his basketball career.

It’s only a month ago that it seemed like every Bucks’ fan alive was calling for the starting spot to be John Henson’s, but now who could argue with Pachulia holding it down?

Sure, he’s not the franchise center that “The Future” that the Bucks are so focused on is going to be built around, but before that guy is found, who else would you rather see wear that jersey?

Pachulia is a leader, and a live-wire, and if you think you’re excited at the prospect of the Playoffs now, wait until Zaza has finished with you, Milwaukee.

The Bucks may not be making things easy for themselves right now, but then Zaza knows a thing or two about that.

The journey will be fun, and Pachulia will be at the center of it, but ther’es only one thing that’s guaranteed.

Nothing easy.

Next: Khris Middleton And The Value of Real Plus-Minus

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