Zaza Pachulia used to be one of the workhorses for the Dallas Mavericks this season.
But lately, the 13-year veteran center is barely being used half of the time.
In three of the past six games entering Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons, Pachulia played his fewest minutes of the season. That includes an eight-minute stint against Denver on Feb. 26, 10 minutes against Denver on Sunday and 15 minutes Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Pachulia’s minutes started decreasing with the arrival of center David Lee, who the Mavericks signed as a free agent on Feb. 22. While Lee has been successful as the backup to Pachulia, it still doesn’t silence the notion that the latter would rather be on the floor more.
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Of course, it’s very normal that I want to play — that’s a no-brainer.
Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia
“Everybody wants to play and I’m no different,” Pachulia said before Wednesday’s game. “I want to be out there. I think I can do more to help the team when I’m on the court, and it’s not in my hands at the end of the day. It’s all about the team.”
While that might be true, Pachulia hustled his way to 23 double-doubles in the first 61 games. However, he’s too proud to talk about individual achievements.
“I hate to talk about myself, but I know what I bring for this team. I’m not a rookie trying to figure out what my game is. I know my game is established throughout the years, I know this team needs my presence and needs me.”
Coach Rick Carlisle has talked to Pachulia about his minutes. But a lot of the sitting by Pachulia is born out of a necessity to use a smaller lineup in order to get back in the game.
“We’ve been playing smaller lineups recently because we’ve been digging holes,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to put a stop to digging ourselves big holes — that’s the No. 1 thing.”
And the No. 1 thing for Pachulia is to stay positive.
“Stick with the plan, stick with the progress,” Pachulia said. “I care about these guys. I care about this team. I want to win, I want to help it, and whenever I get a chance I’ll be out there.”
Dwight Powell had worked his way into the Mavericks’ rotation and was one of the team’s high-energy players.
Then it all came to a halt when the Mavericks acquired Lee, who entered the rotation as the backup to Pachulia, and small forward Chandler Parsons moved to a backup power forward whenever Dirk Nowitzki went to the bench.
He is one of the most professional guys I’ve ever seen for a second-year man in the league.
Rick Carlisle on Dwight Powell
That left Powell as the odd-man out.
“That’s not to say that he couldn’t re-enter the picture,” Carlisle said. “I’ve told him he’s got to stay ready. High-energy guys are always at a premium, so its something that’s there if we need to go to it.”
But telling a second-year player to stay mentally ready is not an easy proposition.
“It’s one of the challenges of being a professional,” Carlisle said. “He is one of the most professional guys I’ve ever seen for a second-year man in the league. He’s got phenomenal work ethic, he is virtually the first one here and the last one to leave most days from a player’s standpoint, and that’s why he’s going to be very successful in this league. But right now it’s just kind of how it is and he just needs to stay ready.”