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.

Durant: Scoring with Warriors 'not much of a grind' compared to Thunder years

Durant: Scoring with Warriors 'not much of a grind' compared to Thunder years

Over 62 regular season games this season, Kevin Durant averaged 25.1 points while shooting just under 54 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from deep.

In 72 games with the Thunder in 2015-16, Durant averaged 28.2 points per game and shot 50.5 percent from the field and just under 39 percent from 3-point territory.

Durant recently sat down with The Vertical's Michael Lee, who asked him the following question:

Lee: "I know we talked earlier and you said this move wasn’t about a ring chase, it was more about how you want to play basketball for your career. How do you feel it has played out for your game, in terms of maybe shots coming easier? Because it seems like you’re getting your points, but it’s not as much of a grind. Am I right in saying that?"

Durant: "Uh, yeah. Obviously, when you’ve got a better, when you’ve got a deeper team, you’ve got guys that can handle the ball, you’ve got shooters, you’ve got guys that can finish at the rim, it just opens it up for everybody. I think we just work well together.

"I scored a lot of points before I came here. I did a lot. This is not the first time I shot 50 percent from the field. It’s not the first year I averaged 25 points a game. And I’m not doing it because I’m here with these guys. I’ve done it before.

"It’s just the fact that when I get my shots – and it’s not as much as I got before – but I’m in position to be efficient. I may get in transition a lot more than I did before. I may get it in space more, so I’m allowed to catch and make a decision whether I want to shoot or drive. Simple stuff like that, that’s the difference.

"But I had some great years before I got here. It’s just a different way I’m getting my points now. It’s not much of a grind. But it’s still a challenge."

Last year, 38 percent of Durant's shots came after zero dribbles, 26.9 percent were "open," 9.6 percent were "wide open," his usage rate was 30.5 percent and he averaged 5.1 transition points per game.

This year, 46.1 percent of his shots came after zero dribbles, 27 percent were considered "open," 10.9 percent were "wide open," his usage rate was 27.6 percent and he averaged 6.5 transition points per game.

He was a quick learner.

"We’ve got smart players. My IQ has grown since I’ve gotten to the league and I realize how important all the moving parts are for the team," Durant explained. "It was an adjustment as far as me being a new guy and having a certain way of playing, talking about the team and adding me in there.

"I’m just figuring how to move without the ball, play in space. But for the most part, it wasn’t that difficult as far as the basketball side, it was just the small details that had to get done."

Mullin sees potential Warriors-Cavs trilogy Finals going six games, but...

Mullin sees potential Warriors-Cavs trilogy Finals going six games, but...

As the defending champion Cavaliers are one win away from advancing to the NBA Finals, the consensus is they will meet the Warriors there and, moreover, that Part III of the trilogy promises to be the most compelling yet.

Chris Mullin is not so sure.

The Hall of Fame forward and current St. John's head coach, a guest Wednesday on the NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Podcast, perceives a reasonable chance of sweeping the series.

“I’m going on the record saying 4-2, just because maybe I want to see six games,” Mullin said. “I would not be surprised if it’s 4-1 or 4-zero. I think they’re that good.”

Recalling how the Warriors started sluggishly after a one-week layoff ahead of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs, Mullin conceded there could be some rust but probably not enough to invite a loss.

“I don’t want to lay any . . . pressure, but the Warriors, to me, this team that we’re watching is going to go down in history as one of the best teams of all time,” he said. “I believe that. I think they will stay together and that’s we’re probably going to see four Hall of Fame players that have played together and have dominated and become a dynasty. That’s what we’re going to look back on.

“There’s just a huge disparity between them and the rest of the league -- and not just the Cavaliers. But there’s a huge disparity between them and the Cavaliers. “

The Warriors defeated Cleveland in six games to win the championship in 2015, but the Cavaliers recovered from a 3-1 deficit to take the rematch last June.

Though both teams have made substantive changes, Mullin is more impressed with what the Warriors have done, including the addition of four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant to a nucleus that included All-Stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Mullin pointed out that the losses of Andrew Bogut, along with subtractions to their fabled depth and chemistry, led some to wonder if the Warriors might lose the magic of the previous two seasons. He also understands that point of view.

“But as I see it now,” he said, “I think they’re deeper and have better chemistry than they did last year when they won 73 games.”

It’s not that Mullin gives the Cavaliers, who have won 11 of 12 games in these playoffs, zero chance to win the series. It is just, in his view, very slim. “Cleveland, they’ve got really good people,” he said. “Their talent, I’m not discounting at all. LeBron and Kyrie and Kevin Love, these guys are great, great players.

“I feel like the Warriors are just a notch above everybody. I really believe that.”