After being called out by Gregg Popovich for sliding under Kawhi Leonard’s foot, Zaza Pachulia and his family began to receive threats over social media.
Pachulia grew concerned, and even hired security to shadow his children at school.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) May 21, 2017
Pachulia has said he’s not a dirty player, and wishes Pop had chosen his words more carefully:
“I don’t blame everything on Pop, but what he said had a lot of influence (and) you had a lot of people where, unfortunately, you can’t control what everybody’s intelligence is,” Pachulia, who has an 8-year-old son, a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter with his wife, told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday. “(Fans) just hear the message, and it’s, ‘OK, Pop said so and now let’s do this.’ It’s just wrong. You’ve got to think, and realize. Threaten me, but don’t threaten my wife or say something about my kids. It’s just wrong.
“Me as a person, as a man, I don’t mind dealing with it. But I hate to see my family deal with it. My wife and my kids who have nothing to do with it, who are very innocent. … I just hate my family going through that. They don’t deserve that. … I’m not blaming everything on (Popovich), but he was a very big part of it.”
When Pachulia was asked about Popovich’s comments a day after Game 1, his tempered tone had everything to do with the respect he still has for the 68-year-old who will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time. Pachulia defended himself in those initial sessions with reporters, insisting there was no ill intent on the play and expressing disappointment for Leonard while avoiding any direct address of Popovich. But in the days that followed, when he had to close his Instagram account because of the threatening messages and was concerned enough that security became part of the school routine, his frustration grew.
Popovich, asked about the social media threats heading into Game 2, said he was done discussing the topic. For Pachulia’s part, he wishes Popovich would have considered the power of his words.