By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
After analyzing the status of his injury and rehabilitation process, which eventually progressed optimally enough to allow him participation in the EuroBasket, Zaza Pachulia discussed the Georgian national team, his “mentor” Ilias Zouros and shared some thoughts on social media and why he prefers to keep himself as far from them as possible.
You can read the first part of the interview here.
– Zaza, you must be pleased with the preparation of the Georgian national team, that was capped by winning the “Akropolis Tournament”.
– “We were actually talking about it on the bench. Where we were some years ago and where we are now as a team. Most of the guys have been part of that team for many years. We grew up together. Individually and as a unit. It’s amazing. We were playing in Division B and we couldn’t go to Division A. Then we fought and went to Division A after making some strides and then we made it to European Championships. We got experience which is such a huge part of succeeding. We still can’t believe we belong to this elite group with these national teams. It’s beautiful to see this, beautiful to be part of it actually. We have confidence and we learn how to play. We also have to give credit to our coach, coach Ilias Zouros. He has done an amazing job.
Honestly, as a player and as a human being, one thing I’m definitely proud of and is number 1 for me: Who were my mentors in my career? And definitely, coach Zouros is one of them. Even though we’ve been together for a relatively short time, I’ve learned so much from him.”
– It’s pretty big that you consider coach Zouros among your mentors.
– “I absolutely do. We met each other two years ago in the summertime. And we kept in touch during the summer. We are grown-ups. He’s older than me and I’ve given him a lot of a hard time and he’s my grandfather’s age (laughs)! OK, I’m joking. I’m over 30 so I think I’m pretty good at understanding people’s minds and judging characters. During day 1 we are having a great conversation in Tbilisi. And I’m saying: “You know what? This guy… is real”. This guy is experienced and you see that from his resume as well. Whatever advice he has given me, the vision he has. Everything. I really like this guy.
Then the tournament (EuroBasket qualifiers) started and we had many practices. You know how it is. You practice two times a day sometimes, you travel, you are at hotels. It’s not easy to connect with someone so soon. Then during the season, we kept in touch, we were talking, he was watching my games, we were discussing my performances, my ups, and downs. We kind of got connected pretty fast. It’s not usual, especially in my life. This is a special guy. I mean that. He’s shown his character, his personality on and off the court and we got connected. I’m really privileged to call him one of my mentors and I’m always looking forward working with him.”
– How important is this relationship for the general camaraderie in the team?
– “It’s very important to have this kind of environment. It really helps. Obviously, we’re not getting paid because we’re here to represent our country and that’s enough for us. At the same time, you want to have a healthy relationship with the coaching staff, your teammates. Everyone. It’s so crucial. It gives you more power, more energy and the desire to play even harder. It makes you want to become a part of this thing even more.
We had an amazing summer last year since we advanced in the EuroBasket. But this tournament now (Akropolis) is nothing, in the end. Great, we won, it’s good for the momentum. But the real stuff starts next week.”
– In the previous EuroBasket, you advanced to a knock-out stage, the Round of 16, for the first time in the history of the national team. Making the next step to the quarterfinals is something to look forward to now?
– “Yeah, it is. Especially because for some of our guys this might be our last European Championship. I’m one of them. Most likely. Take a look at how the system changed. The next EuroBasket is going to be in four years. And as I told you before, I’m getting old (laughs). So this one likely is my last tournament. Because in four years, I’m going to be 37.
This brings another motivation for me. Also, another reason that I’m looking forward to being able to play in the tournament is that I’m going to one of my favorite countries, Israel. And then Turkey, if we advance, where I played for some years. It’s a dream to go back to Turkey and play there again.”
Zaza pauses for a moment to see Giannis Antetokounmpo, with whom they were teammates in the Milwaukee Bucks for two years during 2013-2015, entering the arena and getting massively applauded by the Greek fans.
– “There is this guy Giannis out there. This guy deserves all the best. I hope that Greece understands and appreciates what he is. It’s amazing. He deserves it. He’s young, I’m sure he’s going to have time to prove and opportunities to show how much he loves his country. He’s young, he’s going to have more EuroBasket tournaments more World Championships and Olympic Games to play and show what he’s made of also in this kind of tournaments.”
– When it was announced that he won’t be able to play in the EuroBasket some Greek fans got particularly angry. There were even some racist comments against him in social media.
– “That’s horrible. We’re in 2017, I think this shouldn’t even have been a problem. But it is a problem and a serious one. People in social media can get out of control. Their reactions can be pretty bad.
– Speaking of which, have you seen the fans burning Isaiah Thomas’ jerseys after his trade to the Cavaliers?
– “That’s ridiculous. Honestly, I have no respect for all those fans who do that. I call them idiots. Honestly, they are. Come on, it’s a game. I’ve been in a situation this year when certain things happened. Like when KD (Kevin Durant) was injured because I bumped him. There are so many crazy people. Unfortunately, you can’t control it. Especially in the world, we are living in. People just take things too seriously. There are people who don’t have a job and education and have so much free time that they spent it on stupid things. They are living a life that is spent in writing in negative comments in social media. That’s their life. I think that’s a loser’s life.
Go out there and enjoy life. Do something good. Change the world. Make something positive in the world. There are so many things you could do instead of spending all your life writing comments in social media. I got no respect towards these people honestly. I know about this stuff, I hear about them but I pay no attention to it. One of the best things I’ve done was shutting down all the social media during the season. I deleted all my apps. Paid zero attention it. ”
– It’s a distraction that can absorb you into it.
– “It is. Especially when you are uneducated. Sometimes people have no class. It’s sad to see it. I’m talking about education because I consider it hugely important. If you get an education, things will become better for you. I don’t care what job you choose. If you become a professional athlete, a doctor, politician, get involved science. With education, your life becomes smoother than It would have been without one. It’s important to make these right decisions. And you can’t do that without education. Especially in this world where the internet, for example, gives you an opportunity to be exposed to interesting things and expand your horizons.
Another pause occurs when one of coach Ilias Zouros’ kid daughters sees the Georgian big guy and rushes to hug him, shouting his name. The Warriors center holds her up to his hands and our talk is concluded.
– “When I was a kid, I couldn’t watch an NBA game. Now you can watch everything. Learn about systems, examine moves by players. That’s just an example.To get the point where you want to be you need education. You can’t take an advantage in life without it. Competition is high now. You need the education to become ahead of others, your competitors.”