Pachulia Prefers Hawks, Will Visit Other Teams
Unrestricted free agent center Zaza Pachulia has spent the past eight seasons with the Atlanta Hawks as an integral part of the team’s streak of six consecutive playoff appearances.
But as free agency begins, the veteran center faces an uncertain future with the organization that gave him an opportunity to carve out a niche as being one of the best reserve big men in the league. Pachulia is receiving interest from multiple teams around the league including the Portland Trail Blazers, but also prefers to stay in Atlanta.
The Hawks enter free agency with just four players with guaranteed contracts for the 2013-14 campaign and are clearly establishing a new identity. Pachulia would undoubtedly love to return to the franchise, but also understands the team will take a shot at luring free agent All-Star center Dwight Howard to town first and foremost.
“From my understanding, there may be a few trades coming and obviously Dwight [Howard] is available and other big men are also available,” Pachulia told HOOPSWORLD in a phone interview. “So they’ll make a decision on me in due time. But of course I would like to stay in-house and play for this franchise. I’ve been here for eight great years.
“But this is a business and we all understand it. I will also listen to other offers too and evaluate all of the other options I have on the table and then make a decision on whatever is best for my future and my family.”
Pachulia earned roughly $5.3 million this past season in the final year of his deal and the Hawks will have over $30 million in salary cap room to pursue free agents. Pachulia says he has an open relationship with Hawks president of basketball operations and general manager Danny Ferry and says the team has been upfront on their plans this summer.
But with the Hawks targeting Howard, possibly re-signing Jeff Teague to a new deal and then needing to fill out the remaining eight or nine roster spots, Pachulia may become a victim of a number’s crunch.
“Atlanta is my home,” Pachulia said. “There is no question about it. The franchise has been great to me over the past eight years from the owners to the front office, coaches and of course the fans.
“But I also understand the situation because the [front office] has so many things to do this summer. Danny Ferry has so much work to do. Obviously being somewhat of a new general manager here and hiring a new head coach (Mike Budenholzer). Now they have to fill out the team with players. There are so many roster spots available, so I understand the business side of it.”
Pachulia believes the Hawks will reach out to him once some of the bigger names in this year’s free agent class start agreeing to terms, but also says he has had positive conversations with Hawks’ front office and new head coach Budenholzer on potentially working together in the future.
“The front office hasn’t told me anything specific,” Pachulia said in regards to re-signing him to a new deal. “But the good thing for me is I had an excellent exit interview with Danny Ferry at the end of the season and I also had a short conversation with Coach Budenholzer. Obviously coach heard some good things about me from Danny and the conversation was all good. So I wouldn’t take it personal if it doesn’t happen.”
If Pachulia and the Hawks aren’t able to agree to a new deal, the veteran center says his next preference would be to play for a playoff caliber team but also wouldn’t rule out a franchise looking for the last few pieces to get over the hump.
“After six straight years of being in the playoffs I am kind of spoiled,” Pachulia said. “It is so much fun playing for a playoff team. I enjoy it so much and the intensity of the postseason fits my style of play. So being on a team with playoff hopes is definitely what I want but I also have playoff experience to offer a team coming up.”
Pachulia missed 30 regular season games and the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his right Achilles, however he maintains he will be ready for the start of training camp, wherever that may be.
“Yes. I will be 100 percent by the opening of training camp,” Pachulia said. “I’m talking about being in good shape and everything. Originally my doctors told me it would be a four to six month timetable. I had my surgery April 3 and everything has been going so smoothly with rehab. Hopefully there won’t be any setbacks. The long summer is definitely good for my situation, if I was in Europe things would be different. But in the NBA you get more rest.”
Pachulia averaged 5.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 52 contests this past season.