Zaza Pachulia may have played his last game with the Hawks.
He definitely has played his last game this season.
Pachulia, plagued by a sore right Achilles for two months, will have surgery to repair a partial tear of the tendon and will miss the remainder of the season. The center and fan favorite, who has spent the past eight seasons with the Hawks, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
Pachulia will have surgery April 3 at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, N.C. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina. Hawks team physician Dr. Michael Bernot will be present.
The expected recovery time is approximately six months, meaning Pachulia could be ready before the start of training camp next season.
The injury suffered Jan. 21 has cost Pachulia 21 games, including the past 15 before Saturday’s game against the Magic. He sought several medical opinions from doctors in and out of the organization.
“Talking to team doctors, independent doctors, friends, former athletes who have dealt with this injury, we all were trying to come up with the right decision,” Pachulia said. “I think this is the right decision, for my career, for myself, and that way I will be able to come back as soon as possible and strong and play the sport I love. This is my life. To be back on the court as soon as possible, this was the best way.”
Pachulia (6-foot-11, 275 pounds) appeared in 52 games this season, including 15 starts, and averaged 5.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 28.3 minutes. He set the franchise record for offensive rebounds in a quarter (seven) in a game against the Bucks on Feb. 23.
General manager Danny Ferry said the Hawks would be “completely supportive” in Pachulia’s recovery process. Pachulia said Ferry even accompanied him on one doctor visit to North Carolina.
Pachulia said he has not given thought to his free-agent future and prefers to concentrate on the Hawks and their sixth consecutive playoff appearance.
“Until June 30 I’m still part of this team,” Pachulia said.
Pachulia became a fan favorite, spurred on by the 2008 seven-game playoff series against the Celtics when he, literally, went head-to-head with Kevin Garnett.
“His well-being is the most important thing,” coach Larry Drew said. “He’s had problems with it, and we tried to rest it and see if that would help. Apparently, it did not. At this stage the most important thing is that he is well. It looks like surgery is the only option at this point, and we are going to wish him the best.”
The 10-year veteran was a second-round draft pick (No. 42 overall) of the Magic in 2003 out of his native country of Georgia. He also played a season for the Bucks after he was selected in the 2004 expansion draft by the Bobcats and traded. He signed as a free agent with the Hawks in 2005. He re-signed to remain in Atlanta in 2009 for four more seasons.
“It’s a definitely a big piece for this ballclub. The energy and effort he brings off the bench is going to be truly missed,” Josh Smith said. “I’m confident in the guys who are going to be stepping in and playing major minutes for us. Ivan (Johnson) and Mike Scott, I think they are going to step in and have some productive minutes for us.”