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Despite his disappearing act at Golden State, the Spurs aren’t complaining about what they bought in LaMarcus Aldridge. Kevin Love may be having his annual troubles trying to fit in with the Cavs, but general manager David Griffin says he isn’t going anywhere. Jimmy Butler is all the Bulls wanted and more for his max contract.
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But for all the moves that were made in a freewheeling summer of 2015, the most unlikely name could be delivering the most bang for the proverbial buck.
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Zaza Pachulia is the pearl that you find with a molar when you’re slurping down a dozen at the oyster bar. He’s the valuable painting that turns up in a box at a garage sale.
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For all the energy and emotion the Mavericks spent chasing DeAndre Jordan, the journeyman from Tbilisi, Georgia has been the calm that came after the storm.
No emoji wars. No insults traded. No $100-million deal. Just a center who has fit into the Dallas lineup like a foot inside a custom-made slipper.
He’s a guy who’s totally immersed in the proposition of trying to win and being a part of a team.
– Mavs coach Rick Carlisle on Zaza Pachulia
Long a role player and usually a sub throughout his career, Pachulia’s 13th NBA season has been his best as he’s averaging 10.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and one steal in 29.2 minutes per game.
Working now for his fourth NBA team, Pachulia, who’ll turn 32 on Feb. 10, is one of the biggest reasons the Mavericks have been solidly in the Western Conference playoff mix all season and is arguably the steal of 2015-16.
Compare his $5.2-million contract to the more than $19-million that Dallas was trying to pay Jordan this year and the $87-million overall. Jordan is averaging 11.9 points, 10 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and one assist in 33.4 minutes.
Pachulia ranks seventh in the league in double-doubles with 20 this season and is the only player to hit that plateau while playing less than 30 minutes per game.
I know it’s surprising for a lot of people, but honestly, I feel like I was just born.
– Mavs’ Zaza Pachulia
The big man has sat out the last three games due to a sore right Achilles tendon, but could return to the lineup when Dallas faces the Nets at home Friday night at American Airlines Center (8:30 ET on League Pass).
What the Mavericks will get when he’s back on the floor in the middle of the lineup is what they’ve been getting since opening night 鈥?consistent effort, fundamental plays such as setting hard plays and making sharp, willing passes. He’s been, for all intents and purposes, the perfect teammate. Veteran Dirk Nowitzki even said that Pachulia chest bumps him harder when a teammate scores than when drops in a bucket himself.
While he might not have the athleticism or the still youthful upside potential of Jordan, Pachulia has found himself a comfortable place in Dallas by doing all that’s necessary.
“He’s very smart,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has said. “He’s figured out how to play efficiently and effectively within our system and he loves the challenge of trying to win. He’s a guy who’s totally immersed in the proposition of trying to win and being a part of a team. Great individual things can happen from there.
Pachulia is thriving after his two seasons spent in Milwaukee, where the Bucks went 15-67 and 41-41. The Mavericks, who were thought to be lost when Jordan spurned them, have been one of the pleasant surprises all season, staying above .500 and currently holding down the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference at 26-22.
“I know it’s surprising for a lot of people, but honestly, I feel like I was just born,” Pachulia told cheap chinese jerseys ESPNDallas. “I don’t want to say anything bad about the places I’ve been, but this is the greatest situation I’ve been in during my career. Starting with the coaching staff and the players, the experienced players I have, the winning mentality, (it’s great).”
The Starters: Dallas Mavericks Jerseys: Can They Make The Playoffs?
Despite all the offseason turmoil, do the Mavs have a shot at the postseason?
“With my previous team, it was all about building, rebuilding, starting from scratch. This is a different situation for me, where this team is all about the winning (now), all about the success. I think that’s part of the reason why my numbers are that way. I’m just thankful for the opportunity. I’m thankful for the situation I’m in right now.”
The Mavericks will be thankful to get Pachulia back into the lineup. Using a committee approach of Salah Mejri, JaVale McGee and Dwight Powell, Dallas went 1-2 on its recent road trip and slipped in the standings. The Mavs hope to take advantage of this stretch of the schedule when they play 11 of their next 14 games at home. They’ve missed his passing ability, his smarts and his toughness back on the court.
“Zaza’s our starting center,” Carlisle said. “He’s experienced, strong and one of our team leaders. We look to get him back Friday. It hasn’t been determined for sure yet. We’ve missed him. The other guys have done a good job. But we’re in a stretch where these next games are very important. We need to be ready to go.”
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