Zaza Pachulia is once again feeling the heat, after yet another controversial incident saw the Warriors big man take a questionable tumble right into the knees of Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook on the weekend. Multiple members of the Thunder, including Westbrook himself, told the media that the fall looked intentional.
“Obviously it was intentional,” said Westbrook. “Nobody touched him, he fell over my leg, tried to hurt me. But hey, that’s how it goes.”
Westbrook’s teammate Paul George had similar comments:
“You know Zaza, you know his history,” said George, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. “Nobody pushed him. He aimed his fall … He’s on the end of hurting a lot of guys.”
Pachulia was blasted during last year’s playoffs when he closed out Spurs star Kawhi Leonard on a jump shot and appeared to intentionally disrupt Leonard’s landing. Leonard re-aggravated a tender ankle and was forced to miss the rest of the Western Conference Finals — a real bonus for Pachulia’s Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Durant, however, has chimed into the debate and is sticking up for his teammate, labeling him merely as “clumsy” and not dirty.
“I don’t think Zaza’s trying to hurt anybody,” Durant told reporters Sunday, per The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “He is clumsy, as a lot of big guys are. But I watched the tape.”
“I watched the tape,” Durant continued. “I seen Nick [Young]’s foot get caught up in Zaza’s leg, it might’ve tripped him up a bit. I don’t think he’s trying to hurt Russ. It did look – to the fans, to you, and I’m sure to (Westbrook) – it looked kinda like a weird play. But I slowed it down, and I’ve seen clips, pictures everywhere that (show) Nick’s foot got caught up in Zaza’s leg. It was an unfortunate play, I’m glad Russ didn’t get hurt from it.”
Even with this vote of confidence from a former regular season and Finals MVP, Pachulia has gained himself quite the unfavorable reputation in the league.
“That just happens in basketball,” Durant concluded. “I don’t think Zaza’s out there trying to hurt anybody, he loves the game too much and respects the game too much to do that.”
What do you think? Is Zaza Pachulia a dirty player? Or just clumsy and extremely unlucky?