Pachulia hoping for best-ever FIBA EuroBasket performance for Georgia
It is not easy to teach winning, but there isn't a better-equipped man to guide Georgia into their FIBA EuroBasket 2017 campaign than Zaza Pachulia.
Having brought the Larry O'Brien trophy to Tbilisi after winning the NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors, the 33-year-old big man now has his sights set on big-time success with the national team.
After being given some extra rest time after a long and exhausting season, Pachulia, the captain of the national side, joined his Georgia teammates before the Tbilisi City Hall Cup, helping the national team to two wins over Czech Republic in the capital of Georgia over the weekend.
In front of a packed arena, Georgia downed the Czechs 87-76 on Friday before registering another, 66-64, victory on Sunday to complete the sweep. Having flirted with a triple-double in the first game with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists in 30 minutes, Pachulia was used more sparingly in the second encounter, collecting 6 points and 8 rebounds.
"I am now focused on getting into game shape. I didn't have much time to practice with the team and even though I know the players, the system and the coach, it will still take time to get the feel back," the star big man said. "I'm no longer a youngster to start everything from scratch, I'll play it smart. I know my game, I know what we need and the steps needed to get there."
Georgia were in fine form even before the team captain joined the team, inscribing convincing wins over Latvia and Lithuania in a friendly tournament in Klaipeda, which now serve as a source of cautious optimism before they travel to Tel Aviv for the FIBA EuroBasket.
"Our group at the FIBA EuroBasket is not an easy, but it's a very balanced one," Pachulia said of Group B, featuring Lithuania, Italy, Germany, Ukraine and the Group Phase hosts Israel. "Unfortunately, we won't have Viktor Sanikidze and that is a big loss for us, but basketball is a team sport and we'll try to make it up with reinforcements."
Another important piece Georgia will be missing is Beka Burjanadze, who couldn't complete his recovery on his right knee fast enough to be of service for his country in September.
Nevertheless, Pachulia remains optimistic that Georgia can still break new ground and go further than they have ever been on the international stage, with improving on the 11th place finish in the 2011 edition of the tournament standing as the main target.
"Our goal is to have our best-ever performance in the FIBA EuroBasket and be prepared for every day. We are not looking at the names we are playing against. We will be focused on ourselves and we'll go out to win every single game and hopefully have the best FIBA EuroBasket for us," the player looked ahead, eyeing a place in the Final Phase in Istanbul.
Even with some notable absences, the pieces seem to be in place for the national team to push the goal line further than it has ever been after somewhat disappointing performances in 2013 and 2015, when the team finished 17th and 15th respectively.
And if there is one thing that Pachulia can pass on to his teammates, it is his contagious hard-working and blue-collar type of game: "The never-give-up character that we have in our team will be our business card."
Zaza receives Order Of Honor from the President of the Republic of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili 🎖— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors)