Zaza Pachulia Says Russell Westbrook Calling Him a Dirty Player Is ‘Childish’
“You know Zaza. You know his history,” he noted, per Medina. “You know nobody pushed him. He aimed where he was going to fall. That’s Zaza making a Zaza play. He’s on the end of hurting a lot of guys.”
Even Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving weighed in, commenting on an Instagram post (h/t Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript):
Pachulia most infamously crowded Kawhi Leonard during a jump shot in last season’s Western Conference Finals, causing the San Antonio Spurs forward to land on Pachulia’s foot and miss the remainder of the series.
San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich sounded off on Pachulia after that incident, calling it a “totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago,” per NBC Sports Bay Area.
Indeed, Pachulia has earned the reputation of being a dirty player, whether he agrees with that designation or not. But Dieter Kurtenbach of the Mercury News didn’t believe the fall was intentional after reviewing the film.
He wrote: “The replay shows that as Westbrook and Young went to the ground, Young’s right foot hooks around the back of Pachulia’s left knee. Subsequently, Young’s left foot hits into Pachulia’s left foot. It’s clear: The foot-to-knee pulled Pachulia down, while the foot-to-foot made him awkwardly fall.”
What is just as clear is that Pachulia, based on his reputation, probably won’t be given the benefit of the doubt around the NBA. It’s less clear how the NBA league office will rule on the incident.