Zaza Pachulia can take being the villain in the opposing fans' eyes. But when it turns to his family, the situation becomes much different.
Pachulia revealed Sunday to USA Today that security guards were sent to his childrens' school in San Francisco recently as a precaution after his family received threats. Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard injured his ankle in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals after landing on Pachulia's foot and many questioned Pachulia's actions in the play.
One person who made his feelings on Pachulia's actions loud and clear is Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, even using the word "manslaughter" in a rant that deemed the big man a dirty player.
“I don’t blame everything on Pop, but what he said had a lot of influence (and) you had a lot of people where, unfortunately, you can’t control what everybody’s intelligence is,” Pachulia said. “(Fans) just hear the message, and it’s, ‘Ok, Pop said so and now let’s do this.’ It’s just wrong. You’ve got to think, and realize. Threaten me, but don’t threaten my wife or say something about my kids. It’s just wrong.
“Me as a person, as a man, I don’t mind dealing with it. But I hate to see my family deal with it. My wife and my kids who have nothing to do with it, who are very innocent. ... I just hate my family going through that. They don’t deserve that. … I’m not blaming everything on (Popovich), but he was a very big part of it.”
Pachulia then went into more detail with what happened at his childrens' school.
“Look at what happened at the school. It was unfortunate. They had to get extra security because we are living in a world today where social media is so active, you can find any news you want to, hear any news you want to, and obviously it’s a hot topic lately. They just had hired extra security for the entrance, and make sure nobody goes in the school," Pachulia said. "It’s just not fair. It does upset me."
The 33-year-old Pachulia showed his respects for Popovich as a person and a coach. What he wishes most is that Popovich would have chosen his words better.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Pachulia said. "In today’s basketball world, he’s a very, very respected person. So when Pop says something like that, calling me out ... it's understanding that (your words) will have an effect.
"I’m going to do defend my team, but I’m not going to send a message saying this guy killed (a player), is a murderer or whatever, manslaughter, because people take it differently. We live in a society where not everybody has intelligence, or understanding or is thinking of what’s right and what’s wrong. We’re going to move on. Hopefully (the fans) can let it go. But you know, I’m sure that a year later, 10 years later, (his family is) still going to remember this moment – and not in a good way. It’s something where your heart breaks, and even though life goes on you still feel it in a bad way. I think that’s going to be the case.”
The Warriors lead the Spurs 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals. Pachulia was ruled out of Game 3 with a right heel contusion he sustained in Game 3. He is listed as questionable for Game 4.