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One-on-One with Zaza Pachulia

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Zaza chats about his feelings about returning to Atlanta, life with the Bucks and more.

"There is first love and then there is Zaza Pachulia love" - hawksdawgs
"There is first love and then there is Zaza Pachulia love" - hawksdawgs
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

I've had March 13, the date of Zaza Pachulia, Larry Drew and the rest of the Bucks' lone visit to Atlanta, circled on my calendar since the 2013-14 schedule was released. Zaza's a big reason why I became a Hawks fan in 2008, so getting to sit down and have a one-on-one interview with him before the Hawks beat the Bucks was amazing. First, to set the mood for the post, here we are casually chitchatting during warmups:

Alright, now that you're prepped for this Q&A, onto the questions.

Question: What were your first thoughts when you got here today?

Answer: I was nervous, excitement. Happiness, a lot of emotions. All positive of course. Why would it be negative? Coming back home, you know, is a great thing. I'm excited to see and to experience all 48 minutes, and the whole two, two-and-a-half hours, whatever it takes before I leave the arena, because I grew up in this arena. Basically, I grew up as a basketball player here. I learned so much in front of the ushers, the stats people, the owners, the season ticket holders, the sponsors. I'm excited to see all and experience all this stuff again after a couple months taking off.

It still does have to feel pretty weird, right? Being in the other locker room, coming out from the other side?

Absolutely. It is a weird feeling. Plus you know that all eyes will be on you, and people expect, you know, you to come out and play good. So, it's part of the game, so what are you gonna do?

Larry Drew said before the game that having you there in Milwaukee kind of helped transition him and transition you to a new team, especially with the young players. What can you say about that experience so far in Milwaukee?

We've had a lot of up and downs. Nobody expected us to have this kind of season. Obviously we're not in the playoff picture, we're kind of at the bottom, but there are reasons. First of all, injuries. We didn't have a complete team. I was out for a while. But a new system, new coaches, new players, so success is going to take some time. It's going to take us to work hard, for some time, and then that's when you're gonna put yourself in a situation where you're gonna be successful. And to be a playoff team, and to be a good team. So that's what we're going through. A lot of young guys to still figure it out. There's the positions, the style of play, to play the right way is very important. Same like in Atlanta, where Atlanta started nine years ago to where it is now. It's basically that's what I'm seeing in this team, a lot of young guys. We're working hard, trying to get better and we're improving. We'll be better in the future.

Especially Giannis Antetokounmpo . He's obviously talented (and also hilarious on twitter). What can you say about him so far?

He's a good kid. Being from Europe, he kind of reminds me of my past. He's the youngest guy, so we take care of the young fella. He's a good kid. He's smart and a hard worker. You know he's listening, and that's what you expect from the rookie.

What would you say is the number one thing you miss about Atlanta?

Everything. There's no number one, there's no list. I miss everything about Atlanta. Especially the people that love and support here or off the court. Friends, family, home, the hobbies. It took you some time to build this kind of love. It's not given to anybody, you know. I've seen players play for one team for a long time but they're not getting as much love from fans, so it could be worse, it could be better, but I'm happy with what I'm feeling from the people. And I feel the same way about the city and Atlanta itself. I care about this city. I call it home. It is home.

What do you expect when you start playing today?

Emotional. It'll be emotional for me, and I'm sure there are some fans who are coming to see me who still care about me. But I'm just looking for a good game. Why not?

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Thanks again to Zaza for chatting with me. Let's close with the great tribute video the Hawks showed during the game: