Blogtable: Did Zaza Pachulia deliberately try to injure Russell Westbrook?
Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
From NBA.com Staff
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Russell Westbrook says Zaza Pachulia deliberately tried to injure him. What say you?
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David Aldridge: I can’t judge intent, though the optics of it were horrible. I am reminded, though, of what I would think after hearing a certain player (he’s now on TV) had been involved in some kind of off-court incident: “why is it, when the (bleep) goes down wrong, you’re always there?” Why are guys always limping after encountering Zaza? Yes, he’s clumsy. But nothing in that exchange with Westbrook suggests a professional athlete, as Pachulia is, exercising any kind of restraint or control of his body, as he obviously has, or he wouldn’t be a professional athlete. I have said and continue to believe that Matthew Dellavedova, if not a dirty player, is a careless one, who throws his body around not caring if it careens into someone else’s at an odd angle and causes injury. I guess I’d put Zaza in that same category. And just as the league ultimately penalized Draymond Green for continued groin contact whether he “meant” to do it or not, it has to ultimately adjudicate Pachulia if this continues.
Steve Aschburner: I say it’s got to be hard to be Zaza. In a league of ridiculously lithe and agile athletes, Pachulia is a plodder. A plowhorse trying to keep up with thoroughbreds. His rap sheet of shaky, punishing plays suggests malice, and yet the worst of his banging and thrashing was perpetrated last season on his own teammate, Kevin Durant (and Zaza was mortified by it). So did it look like he targeted his fall to land on Westbrook’s legs? Yeah. But would that have been a lot to process in real time — Nick Young’s foot catching Pachulia behind the knee, giving him an opportunity to try for a little mayhem — to have an alibi? Yeah. No one wants to be known as a dirty player. But it surely can’t be fun, either, being known as an oaf or a lummox in a league full of gazelles. Cut Zaza some slack.
Tas Melas: Zaza Pachulia is an “opportunistic dirty player”. Nick Young’s foot on the back of his knee gave him enough reason to fall on Westbrook. He could have maintained his balance far better than he did, possibly even stayed on his feet, but when opportunity knocks, Zaza is there. He doesn’t overtly go out of his way to hurt anyone, but someone giving him a nudge was enough of a justification to fall on an opponent, and if there’s an injury which occurs because of it, so be it.
Shaun Powell: I say the evidence is in and Zaza Pachulia is — brace yourself, now — slow-footed and clumsy. And sometimes the clumsy players are the most dangerous, not only to the opposition, but to their own teammates. The replays clearly showed Zaza’s leg buckling from a hit, causing him to lose balance. Maybe a more athletic player doesn’t collapse. And sure, Zaza has been involved in questionable issues before this. But he’s a big oaf, first and foremost. On this play, he was guilty of that.
John Schuhmann: I’m not Zaza Pachulia, so I don’t know. But Pachulia’s reputation as an irritant doesn’t help him when it comes to stuff like this.
Sekou Smith: I think suggesting deliberate or “dirty” intent about Zaza is something that simply is not there. Those words imply a sinister intention or a dark side I’ve never witnessed in the big fella. Is he, as Kevin Durant suggests, a bit clumsy? I think so. That makes much more sense than Zaza being some dirty player bent on taking out opposing team’s stars like Russell Westbrook on a regular basis. Yes, he plays a physical style and pushes it to the edge sometimes. Dirty, though, that’s strong. I didn’t think it was fair when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tagged Zaza with that label after the Kawhi Leonard incident in the Western Conference finals last year. And I don’t like it now. That’s a serious charge, one that carries a heavy burden of proof, one I don’t think Russ, Pop or anyone has established.
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