Zaza Pachulia: Gregg Popovich ‘Had a Lot of Influence’ on Spurs Fans Who Threatened My Children

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Golden State Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia has received death threats to him and his family since his hard and reckless closeout of San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard made the Western Conference Finals the one-sided affair it has been through three games.

In light of threats made on social media, Pachulia, who with his wife has an eight-year-old, a seven-year-old, and a four-year-old, deployed security to the entrance of his kids’ school in the Bay Area.

And he laid part of the blame for the threats at the feet of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who, a day after Game 1, ripped Pachulia and compared the Leonard-injuring act to a crime: “You ever hear of manslaughter?”

“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 told USA Today. “(Fans) just hear the message, and it’s, ‘OK, Pop said so and now let’s do this.’ … I’m not blaming everything on (Popovich), but he was a very big part of it.”

Leonard hasn’t played since going down, and the Spurs find themselves in an 0-3 hole heading into Game 4 on Monday night. Pachulia says he still respects Popovich and would understand if Leonard were angry with him.

“I have a lot of respect for [Popovich]. In today’s basketball world, he’s a very, very respected person. So when Pop says something like that, calling me out…it’s understanding that (your words) will have an effect.”