The NBA almost had its own John Scott. He’s the veteran NHL enforcer who has some fans but no real business being part of an All-Star Game, yet the power of a social media voting campaign swept him into a captaincy in one of the sport’s biggest stages. He’s an All-Star.
Zaza Pachulia was almost that for the NBA.
The fallback option for the Mavericks after DeAndre Jordan changed his mind last summer, Pachulia got a gigantic boost from overseas voting (including his native Georgia) and with a massive late push came within 14,000 votes of beating out Kawhi Leonard for the final starting slot in the Western Conference frontcourt. That drive led Pachulia past Draymond Green for the fourth spot in the All-Star voting.
3. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 782,339
4. Zaza Pachulia (Dal) 768,112
5. Draymond Green (GS) 726,616
Green still will be an All-Star, the coaches will vote him in (that will be announced next week). Pachulia — while having the best season of his career averaging 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds — is not going to get an invite.
“What I’m thankful is that fans, without me asking anybody, they took it to this level. I was so close. It’s just an amazing feeling. I feel loved. That’s more important to me than being an All-Star, honestly. It’s not easy to be an All-Star, but it’s even more difficult to be loved by so many people and have so many people have your back, especially a guy coming from a small country like Georgia.”
Not only did the people of his native Georgia have his back but also so did rapper Wyclef Jean.
It’s an exhibition, and the fans should see who they want to see — give the people what they want. And if they rally and decide they want to see Zaza Pachulia, so be it. This is a meaningless exhibition game, nobody is playing defense, so just have fun with it. It’s not like the NBA stakes home-court advantage in the NBA Finals on the outcome of a midseason All-Star Game, that would be ludicrous.