By Griffin Hill
When 250+ pound professional athletes are running full speed, and using their muscle to launch themselves at every loose ball, injuries are bound to happen. But injuries are accidents, and should never be caused by an individuals intentional desire to hurt someone else.
Zaza Pachulia in numerous situations has been accused of crossing the line, and trying to hurt other stars. An incident with Kawhi Leonard last season, was perhaps the most infamous, and caught the attention of players around the league. The debate of whether the warriors big man intentionally stepped on the ankle of Leonard is in fact no debate at all. People around the league like to convince themselves that no player at this level would dare to do such a thing. While this would be a wonderful truth, it is not the case. Zaza Pachulia is out to injure other players, and revolves his game around cheap shots, and “dirty” plays.
The discussion of Pachulia’s “play style” has resurfaced this week because of yet another incident Saturday night against the Thunder. Russell Westbrook had dived on the floor in hope of a loose ball and was tangled up with the warriors guard Nick Young. Young rightfully was on the floor wrapped up with Westbrook due to the nature and hustle of the play from both sides. However, Pachulia was standing above the play and was not touched by either player. After the whistle was blown the Warriors big man lunged his body onto the lower legs of Westbrook, in what was without a doubt an effort to cause pain.
Warriors players such as Kevin Durant have continued to deny the reputation of Zaza as a “dirty player,” and have referred to him as “clumsy” or “flat-footed.” Obviously players of the Warriors aren’t going to bash their own center, but I will: the play of Zaza Pachulia is absolutely unacceptable, and lowers the standards of the league. It is a question of character and consideration of other athletes, and a personal attack at his targets.
Russell Westbrook was up front about the situation after the game and was quite short-tempered with the reporters. He was quotes saying “Nobody touched him, he fell on my leg, tried to hurt me. But hey, that’s how it goes.”
Westbrook was clearly upset about the situation, and rightfully so. It is a shame the league hasn’t taken actions on Pachulia in the past, and especially after this weekend. Injuries are detrimental to an athletes career, and can already occur accidentally. No player should have to fear whether an opponent is going to go above and beyond to injure them, and players like Zaza should be suspended and fined.
Whether he is fined, suspended, or left alone I do not think Zaza Pachulia will change, and neither will my respect for him. He is a dirty player who deserves punishment for his actions. The league also needs to up their rules on plays such as this one and better protect their athletes.