For the past two years, Pachulia also has overseen his own basketball academy in Tbilisi. The program, which now boasts more than 500 members, is housed in the same complex where Zaza once honed his low-post moves on dilapidated courts. Because there was no heater in that old windowless gym, he often practiced wearing a hat and gloves. Today, the facility features four basketball courts, locker rooms, a weight room, a restaurant and dorm-style living. One of the courts is the same hardwood Pachulia once played on at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee; he had the floor shipped home in 267 pieces. “When my dad moved to Turkey with me, he shared in my NBA dream,” he said. “All of this, in a way, is for him.”
Davit Pachulia was 39 when he left all he had known in his native Tbilisi, Georgia — his wife, his mother, his job driving buses — to move into a two-bedroom apartment in Istanbul with his teenage son. The plan was as simple as it was difficult: Help Zaza, a lanky 14-year-old with NBA ambitions, acclimate to his new life on the Turkish Basketball League’s junior circuit. During that spring of 1998, Davit was a fixture at games, practices and team dinners. One night, when Zaza was involved in an on-court spat, Davit nearly stormed the court. “We were close before going to Turkey, but we got even closer over there,” Pachulia said recently. “It was only us, two Georgians taking on the big city.”
In the summer of 2015, the Athletic Federation of Georgia offered him the opportunity to run his own basketball academy in Tbilisi. The program, which now boasts more than 500 members, is housed in the same complex where Pachulia once practiced while wearing a hat and gloves. These days, the facility features four basketball courts, locker rooms, a weight room, a restaurant and dorm-style living. One of the courts is the same hardwood Pachulia used to run on at the Bradley Center when he played for Milwaukee (he had the floor shipped in 267 pieces). “What basketball gave me in my life, it’s amazing,” Pachulia said. “I want other kids to have my kind of career, at least.”
Nikola Vucevic had one of his finer all-around performances of the competition with 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks to lead Montenegro (3-0) to a thrilling 76-74 victory over Georgia (2-1) on Wednesday in Tbilisi. The two countries meet again in Bar, Montenegro on Sept. 17. While he wasn’t as efficient from the field (7-of-22) as he was in the first two games, Vucevic was ultra-aggressive, clutch and versatile. A sign he has been spending time this summer extending his range, Vucevic buried a pair of 3-pointers including a go-ahead trey with 1:31 remaining. Vucevic also came up with two offensive rebounds on Montenegro’s final possession that led to a game-winning putback from Nemanja Djurisic with three seconds left.
One of the most interesting games of the 3rd round of the Eurobasket 2017 qualifiers takes place in Tbilisi, between hosting team Georgia and Montenegro. Among other things, it includes a highly anticipated “battle of the giants” matchup with a taste from the NBA, between Georgia’s captain Zaza Pachulia and Montenegro star Nikola Vucevic. “It’s different when playing on the national team from our games in the NBA because players have different roles, you play alongside different players, in different systems, European basketball is different in general,” said Pachulia in an interview for FIBA. “Playing against Nikola is going to be fun, two quality big men going against each other, but at the same time this is a team sport, it’s all about the team. He is a great player, he’s proven it through these years but here we’re both going to try help our team win this game.”
All it took was 15 minutes for Nikola Vucevic to overwhelm Albania in EuroBasket qualifying action. In that time on the floor, Vucevic showed off his offensive arsenal. He shot 8-of-13 and finished with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists in Montenegro’s 113-73 victory on Saturday in Tirana. The win sets up the first of two highly-anticipated and significant matchups with Georgia, who like Montenegro is 2-0 and feature its own NBA big man, Zaza Pachulia. The two teams will meet up in Tbilisi, Georgia on Sept. 7 and then again on Sept. 17 in Bar, Montenegro.