Monte Poole

Zaza on All-Star vote spotlight: 'This is a special moment'

Zaza on All-Star vote spotlight: 'This is a special moment'

Zaza Pachulia was the People’s Choice. The Warriors center received 1,528,941 votes from fans eager to see him start in the NBA All-Star Game.

Pachulia in the final fan voting announced Thursday finished behind only teammate Kevin Durant among frontcourt players in the Western Conference. Zaza had more votes than Spurs star Kawhi Leonard (1,058,941) or Pelicans star Anthony Davis (974,802), both of whom will be starting for the West. 

With an extremely strong showing from voters in his native land, the Republic of Georgia, Pachulia finished precisely 613,068 votes ahead of Warriors teammate Draymond Green, who was an All-Star last season.

Yet Pachulia won’t join the All-Stars that flock to New Orleans from Feb. 16-19. The NBA prior to the season changed the voting procedure to ensure fans didn’t have complete control of the starting lineups.

Once the province of fan voting, the starting lineups are determined by a combination of fan voting (50 percent), player voting (25 percent) and media voting (25 percent). This way, a strong showing among fans hardly ensures a starting spot.

Some refer to this alteration as The Zaza Rule, as it was instituted Pachulia nearly made the team last season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

And Pachulia is OK with that. He made it clear weeks ago, when his numbers were dwarfing those of players who have made multiple All-Star appearances, the most important aspect of the voting was not how he finished but the incredible support of his fellow Georgians.

“It’s such an overwhelming situation,” Pachulia said a couple weeks ago. “You’re not talking about a couple of thousand (votes). There’s hundreds of thousands. And with such a small country like Georgia, there are only 3.5 million people. The whole country’s involved in it.”

Pachulia, in fact, saw the humor in the matter. He knows his stats don’t compare to those of the league’s elite big men. He knows there is no single element of his game that the average fan would find irresistible.

He even knows he doesn’t belong in the NBA’s showcase game, with many of the players destined for the Hall of Fame.

“It’s just happening. All I can do is just sit back and enjoy and be thankful -- be really thankful -- for all of this,” Pachulia said. “Because I’m telling you, like you can get as mad as you want, you can be as happy as you want, but you can’t buy this. This is a special moment and I really appreciate the support. And that’s what I care about.

“I don’t care about being an All-Star, the fame that comes with it, the recognition that comes with it. I care about the support and the love I’m getting.”

Believe him. He’d prefer to enjoy the time with his family even more than he would have enjoyed the game itself.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant named starters in 2017 All-Star Game

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant named starters in 2017 All-Star Game

Warriors guard Stephen Curry has been voted to start the NBA All-Star Game for the fourth consecutive season, and this time there was a measure of suspense.

Curry will join Rockets guard James Harden in the backcourt for the Western Conference squad, as voters snubbed MVP candidate and triple-double specialist Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City.

Joining Curry and Harden in the starting lineup for the West will be Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard and Pelicans forward/center Anthony Davis.

A combination of fan balloting (50 percent), player balloting (25 percent) and media balloting (25 percent) comprises the overall vote.

Curry’s selection is sure to generate considerable debate, as Westbrook leads the league in scoring (30.6 points per game), is second in assists and 11th (10.4) in rebounding (10.6). Westbrook also leads the league in PER at 29.56.

Moreover, he is bidding to become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double over the course of a full season.

Coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, Curry ranks 12th in scoring (24.6 points per game), 15th in assists (6.1), second in 3-pointers made (158) and eighth in steals (1.81). His 92.6-percent shooting from the line ranks second in the NBA.

He is the first Warrior since Wilt Chamberlain to start four straight All-Star games.

Durant, in his first season with the Warriors, leads the team in scoring (26.2) and blocks (1.71) and double-doubles (16). He’s second in rebounding (8.6) and third in assists (4.7). His 54.4-percent shooting from the field is 10th in the league and tops among perimeter players.

Durant will be making his eighth appearance, and his fifth as a starter.

The Eastern Conference starters are as follows: guards Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, with frontcourt players LeBron James of the Cavs, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks and Jimmy Butler of the Bulls.

All-Star reserves, which are chosen by NBA coaches, will be announced on Jan. 26.

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant, Thunder Stopper? With a second consecutive magnificent performance in decisive wins over his former Oklahoma City teammates, Durant may be adding a nickname.

Durant on Wednesday night posted his first 40-point game as a Warrior, carrying them to a 121-100 win over the Thunder at Oracle Arena.

He has scored 79 points in two games against OKC, taking only 40 shots to ring up such an impressive total. He was 13-of-16 Wednesday night and 15-of-24 in scoring 39 points in a 122-96 win on Nov. 3 at Oracle.

Though Durant downplayed his production, his coach and teammates were not surprised he has been so good against the team with which he spent nine seasons.

“It’s still kind of fresh, but we can’t deny the history of him with OKC,” Stephen Curry said.

“Every player in the NBA wants to play well against his old team,” coach Steve Kerr said. “For most guys, you feel that extra juice when you play against a team that you played on.”

Durant not only finished with a season-high point total but also added a team-best 12 rebounds, along with four assists and three blocks. He practically stamped his signature on the game.

“My teammates are doing a good job of freeing me up,” said Durant, who drilled 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. “I put the work in and prepared myself for every game. I just happened to knock them down.”

It’s not just that Durant was facing his former team, though. He was, once again, on opposite sides from longtime teammate and erstwhile friend Russell Westbrook. The two have not had much to say to each other since Durant’s decision last July to leave OKC and sign with the Warriors.

Little changed Wednesday night, though the two had a brief exchange in the second half, as Durant headed to the line to shoot a pair of free throws.

Asked if the two have talked, Westbrook said, “Nah,” despite the brief dialogue.

Durant carefully avoided saying anything remotely inflammatory about Westbrook or any of his former teammates.

“It’s good to see everybody,” he said. “Once the ball is tipped, you’re just playing. You’re just hooping. It’s as simple as that. But it’s definitely good to see everybody.”

Durant’s lone lowlight came when he blew a dunk with 1:45 left in the first half, taking flight about 10 feet from the basket and slamming the ball off the back of the rim and nearly to halfcourt.

“I thought I made it,” Durant said, “and then I heard the crowd.

“I was kind of upset. I tried to dunk it too hard, I think. I might have jumped from a little too far out. As I was close to the rim, I felt myself coming down a little earlier than usual.

“But, yeah, I should have made that one. That would have brought the crowd to its feet. But, hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity.”

The crowd was on its feet plenty, as was the case during Durant’s previous display against OKC. The Thunder won’t be back to Oakland this season.

Durant will have another chance to go after his former team and burnish his credentials as a Thunder Stopper when the teams meet on Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City.