Appreciative Pachulia jokes about All-Star votes: 'You think it's a hack?'

Appreciative Pachulia jokes about All-Star votes: 'You think it's a hack?'

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OAKLAND -- Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia leads all centers in early ballot returns for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game, and Draymond Green couldn’t be happier for his teammate.

Even if Pachulia’s stunning popularity has, at least for now, an effect on Green’s chances to be voted in as a starter for the Western Conference team.

“Shout-out to Zaza,” Green said, grinning Friday morning after shootaround. “Big ups to Zaza.”

The ballot for All-Star Game starters lists two categories: frontcourt and backcourt. Pachulia and Green both are frontcourt players, as is Warriors teammate Kevin Durant. Through returns of Jan. 4, Durant leads all Western Conference frontcourt players with 541,209 votes. Pachulia is second with 439,675.

Green, a member of the 2016 All-Star team, is fifth, with 236,315 votes. In third place is Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, with Pelicans forward/center Anthony Davis is fourth place.

Pachulia, the journeyman center from the Republic of Georgia, is proud of his 14-year NBA career but even prouder of the support he is receiving from his country for the second straight year. With a strong push from social media, Pachulia also balloted inordinately high last season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

“Do you think it’s a (computer) hack?” Pachulia asked, facetiously, after shootaround.

Pachulia then turned serious, referencing the wars and the politics of Georgia, and acknowledging the national unity and resilience of 3.5 million fellow Georgians.

“All I can do is sit back and enjoy it and be thankful, be really thankful for all of this,” he said. “You can get mad if you want, or you can be happy if you want. But you can’t buy this. It’s a special moment and I really appreciate the support.

“And that’s what I care about. I don’t care about All-Star (status) and the fame that comes with it and the recognition that comes with it. I care about the support and the love I’m getting. It kind of tells me I’m doing something right. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I’m doing something for me people, for my community.”

The NBA changed the voting rules in part because of Pachulia’s strong showing last season. Fan voting has been reduced from 100 percent of the equation to 50 percent, with players and media now accounting for 25 percent each in a weighted system.

"It’s the Zaza Rule,” Green said. “I don’t know it’s going to work against that one, though. He has a lot of votes.”

For what it’s worth, Green says he was irritated by Pachulia’s showing last season but now sees it “pretty hilarious,” partly because the two are teammates.

“I’m definitely voting for Zaza,” Green said. “We’re going to start campaigning for him for the (other) players to vote for him, too.”

Balloting concludes on Jan. 16, with the starters announced three days later.

NBA Gameday: Warriors must summon intensity for early start vs Magic

NBA Gameday: Warriors must summon intensity for early start vs Magic

Having destroyed three highly regarded opponents in their toughest week of the season, the Warriors on Sunday face an altogether different kind of challenge.

This time, it’s simply waking up.

The Warriors will pursue their seventh consecutive win, facing the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 a.m Pacific., the earliest game of the season for the Warriors.

The last time the Warriors (37-6) played such an early game in the Eastern Time Zone was March 26, 1995, also in Orlando.

The Magic (18-27) will want to be on alert for Warriors star Stephen Curry, who torched Orlando for 51 points last Feb. 25, his last visit to Amway Center.

BETTING LINE:
Warriors by 12.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Kevin Durant vs. Aaron Gordon: It’s the most efficient high-producer on offense (Durant) vs. one of the top five athletes in the league (Gordon). Durant is taking apart all defenders, and Gordon isn’t known for his D. No, the South Bay native is most known for his ability to fly. Durant’s task will be to minimize lob attempts while keeping him off the offensive glass for easy put backs.

INJURY REPORT:
Warriors: F/C David West (L thumb fracture) is listed as out. G Shaun Livingston (rest) is listed as out.

Magic: G Evan Fournier (R foot soreness) is listed as questionable. G Jodie Meeks (R thumb sprain) and G C. J. Wilcox (L Achilles tendinitis) are listed as out.

LAST 10:
Warriors: 9-1. Magic: 3-7.

SERIES HISTORY:
The Warriors have swept the Magic in each of the past three seasons, compiling a six-game win streak during which they’ve won by an average of 10.8 points per game.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
EARLY FOCUS: After such astonishing success in a grueling week, with three emotional games, the Warriors may be susceptible to a letdown against inferior competition. Will they be able to summon the intensity from the start?

THE BIG MEN: Zaza Pachulia will have his hands full with Nikola Vucevic, the USC product who is one of the league’s more skilled scorers in the paint. Vucevic is not much of a defender, though, so Pachulia may find a few opportunities via the back cut or the pick-and-roll.

INSIDE D: If ever there were an offensive team begging to be defended by a zone, it is the Magic, who are 25th in field-goal percentage and, even worse, 28th in 3-point shooting percentage. The Warriors should be in good shape if they limit penetration.

Ex-Warrior rips Thunder for not defending Westbrook after Pachulia incident

Ex-Warrior rips Thunder for not defending Westbrook after Pachulia incident

Late in the first half of Wednesday night's game against the Thunder, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia made hard contact with Russell Westbrook, sending the Oklahoma City star sprawling to the ground.

The referees reviewed the play and gave Pachulia a flagrant foul.

Replays show Pachulia appearing to stand over Westbrook and none of his Thunder teammates coming to his defense.

Raja Bell, a 12-year NBA veteran who was briefly a Warrior during the 2009-10 season, was not happy with the reaction of the Thunder players.

"You are supposed to come flying across the court. You don't have to punch him, because that's a lot of money. But he should catch a forearm across his shoulder, a shove in the back, you ain't gonna knock down Russell Westbrook, the everything to the team I'm playing on, who feeds me, who makes me better, you ain't gonna do that and just stand over him and ice grill him. Not a chance," Bell said on Thursday during the NBA Crossover show on CBS Sports.

The incident started a war of words between Westbrook a Pachulia following the game.

"I don't know. He hit me kind of hard. But it's alright. I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up," Westbrook said when asked about what happened on the play.

He was then asked if he noticed Pachulia standing over him.

"I didn't see that until just now, but I don't play that game. I'm going to get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don't know, but I don't play that game," Westbrook said.

Pachulia responded to Westbrook's comments moments later.

"I can't worry about that kind of comment. I'm part of an amazing team and we have a great goal of winning a championship. I'm all in with my energy, 100 percent. So we're thinking about this team, staying healthy, moving forward, getting better, getting to the playoffs and playing for the championship. That's what I'm thinking about. I'm not thinking about those kind of comments.

"That team is not there, so they may be thinking about other stuff like getting me back. Okay, you can get me back. But again, it's my 14th year, we all know what my game is, to play hard, not dirty. If it was a hard foul, it was a hard foul. It wasn't dirty at all. I'm not worried about this," Pachulia told the media.