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.”
Zizic’s strong play at such a high level has only strengthened the Celtics’ confidence in the next step. “July 1 just has to roll over on the calendar, and we’ll sign him,” Austin Ainge said. “He wants to be here, and we want him here.”
Zizic said he is working to improve his midrange jump shot, and he believes his developing ability to play both power forward and center will make him an asset in Boston, where coach Brad Stevens places great value in positional versatility.