DALLAS – When the ugly and muddy dust had finally settled from an otherwise unsettled summer for the Dallas Mavericks, Zaza Pachulia turned out to be one of the prized consolation prizes this franchise was able to secure at the center position.
The Mavs, of course, were all-in and had their paws -- for a brief minute – squarely on the shoulders of Los Angeles Clippers free agent center DeAndre Jordan. That is until Jordan created some major controversy when he reneged on a verbal agreement he gave the Mavs and instead decided to return to Los Angeles and re-sign with the Clippers.
Coupled with Tyson Chandler’s decision to not wait out the Jordan fiasco – Chandler signed with the Phoenix Suns – the Mavs found themselves desperately looking for a center.
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That’s where Pachulia stepped in and signed a one-year, $5.2 million contract with the Mavs. And that modest – by NBA standards – contract is paying off in a very big way so far for the Mavs (5-4).
What’s more, JaVale McGee has been slated to be the Mavs’ starting center and rim protector. But a stress fracture in his left tibial has prevented McGee from playing at all, and that left Pachulia with doing the lion’s share of work at the center spot.
However, not only did Pachulia’s 18 points and 16 rebounds help the Mavs defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, 90-82, Friday night at American Airlines Center. But it was his fifth double-double in the Mavs’ nine games this season.
Pachulia, though, refuses to take any credit for the success he’s having on the court.
"Thank you to my teammates for finding me,’’ said Pachulia, who was 5-of-7 from the field and 8-of-11 from the free throw line. "Obviously a lot of pick-and-roll situations.
"Thank you to my teammates for missing some good shots offensively so that I could get some offensive rebounds.’’
In all, Pachulia (6-11, 275) picked up three offensive rebounds. He also drained a 16-footer from the corner that put the Mavs up 83-78 with two minutes remaining in the game.
"Zaza made a huge shot on the right baseline which was a read that (Deron) Williams made,’’ Carlisle said. "It was a huge shot and one of the biggest shots of the year in our modestly beginning season.’’
Pachulia also made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch when it was still anybody’s game. The 13-year veteran played with steely-eyed nerves, and the Lakers had no answer for him.
"Just keep the game simple,’’ Pachulia said of his strategy. "We have a system with very unselfish players.
"We have players that know how to play the right way. It’s so much fun to play with this group.’’
Pachulia had seven points and eight rebounds by halftime when the Mavs led 48-40. And in eight crunch-time minutes he picked up another seven points and four boards in the fourth quarter.
An unselfish player, Pachulia singled out the play of point guard Deron Williams, who collected 13 points, seven assists and three steals, as being very vital to the Mavs’ ninth straight victory over the Lakers.
"The last couple of years he played in the Eastern Conference, so I had the opportunity to play against him,’’ said Pachulia, who played all of his previous 12 seasons in the East. "He’s smart.’’
So far, Pachulia also is showing how smart he is. He doesn’t do anything fancy or eye-catching, but he’s usually in the right position and doe s a lot of the dirty work.
"Setting good screens is important,’’ Pachulia said. "Using the screen is important.
"Obviously we have great shooters on the weak side – we have a lot of weapons. It’s hard to guard everybody. We just have to be smart and read the plays the right way.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com.