Zaza Pachulia: Flagrant foul was ‘payback’ for Russell Westbrook’s elbow

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Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson play like stars for the Warriors. Fifth starter Zaza Pachulia does the rest.

Against the Thunder a couple weeks ago, that meant decking Russell Westbrook and standing over the Oklahoma City guard who has repeatedly intensified a feud with Durant.

Except maybe that wasn’t Pachulia’s motivation?

Pachulia, as transcribed by Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I didn’t mention where everything started, and maybe that’s my fault not to make it clear that I didn’t start that conversation or incident on the court,” Pachulia said on KNBR’s “Murph & Mac.” “He elbowed me right (before the) previous play before I gave him a hard foul. He elbowed me. He lost the ball and threw the elbow in my face. We went on the fast break, Steph (Curry) had the layup and here they come and that’s when I took the hard foul.

“So it was kind of payback from my side. Like I said, a lot of people didn’t know that. I didn’t talk about it. I think it’s fair for me to say now.”

Would Pachulia have forgiven the elbow – which can be seen above – if it didn’t come from a player who was beefing with one of Pachulia’s teammates? I suspect Pachulia might have, but nobody – including him – can ever know for certain. For what it’s worth, Pachulia has taken grievances into his own hands against other players, too.

Either way, Pachulia has put himself in Westbrook’s crosshairs. I doubt any explanation will change that.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.