Zaza Pachulia plans to have some fun on the road trip. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images
Zaza's Travel Log
By Jon Cooper
The Atlanta Hawks are taking their biggest road test of the season, and what an exam it is — a six-game, 11-day road trip that takes them to Milwaukee, Detroit, Utah, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Denver.
While it's a grueling trip, with travel through three different NBA divisions and four different time zones against some tough teams, bookended by back-to-backs, there are ways to relax and make the most of spare time.
Who better to ask than nine-year veteran Zaza Pachulia. An admitted "foodie" and someone well known for his eye on fashion? Pachulia went city by city and gave his recommendations on what he'll likely be doing and where he'll go to eat.
Saturday, Feb. 23, @ Milwaukee:
Time Zone: Central
Average Feb. Weather: High, 33, low, 19
Home Court: The Bradley Center
All-Time Series Record: 96-99
Record in Milwaukee: 32-62
2011-12 in Milwaukee: Hawks and Bucks split last season as they have each of the last four years.
Pachulia played the 2004-05 season, his second full NBA season, in Milwaukee with the Bucks, averaging 6.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18.9 minutes while appearing in 74 games (four starts). It's a place where his memories are warm, even if the weather is not.
"I remember a lot of cold and foggy weather. It was good, actually," Pachulia said. "I was 20 or so. That city helped me to stay calm and just focus on the game. It kind of looked like a Georgian city, architecturally with, different kinds of buildings, kind of an older town. It was pretty fun. I met a couple of Georgian families over there. So they were entertaining. In the organization, Sen. [Herb] Kohl, he's a great guy, great person, great owner. He was really good to me. I'm sure we remember each other. [Director of Community Relations] Skip Robinson, we still keep in touch. We're good friends. The fans? I don't know. It's eight years since I left. So I'm not sure. They've had a lot of other players since I left, plus I was only there one year. So I don't know how much I stuck in their mind with my game."
Favorite thing to do: "Honestly, I would drive to Chicago for fun (laughs). I got a couple of speeding tickets along the highway. A lot of my teammates were from Chicago, actually, so they would drive back and forth."
Favorite place to eat: "Mo's Steakhouse was my go-to place there."
One thing you need: "My laptop. I need that. Especially since it's going to be cold, I'm not looking forward to going out and walking around the city. It's going to be back-to-back. Actually, I'm not going to have too much time anyway."
Monday, Feb. 25, @ Detroit:
Time Zone: Eastern
Average Feb. Weather: High, 35, low, 21
Home Court: The Palace of Auburn Hills
All-Time Series Record: 167-159
Atlanta Series Record: 84-116
Record in Detroit: 80-71
Atlanta Record in Detroit: 35-64
2011-12 in Detroit: The Hawks and Pistons split two games for the second straight year. Atlanta lost, 103-97, at the Palace on Jan. 1.
There's not necessarily as much history with Pachulia in Detroit, nor are there any real warm and fuzzy feelings.
"I just stay in the hotel," Pachulia said. "The one thing about these first two places, both are very cold every time we go there. I definitely don't want to leave my room."
Favorite place to eat: "Close to the hotel, since I'm a big foodie, there's a Mediterranean restaurant. So I go there. It says Mediterranean Grill. I have some kebobs and some Mediterranean food. It's very cool."
One thing you need: "Same thing. My laptop (laughs). When you're sitting in your room that entertains me."
Wednesday, Feb. 27, @ Utah:
Time Zone: Mountain
Average Feb. Weather: High, 43, low, 25
Home Court: Energy Solutions Arena
All-Time Series Record: 41-48
Record in Utah: 12-31
2011-12 in Utah: The teams did not meet, but Atlanta has won back-to-back games there after 15 straight losses.
Pachulia has had the benefit of a tour guide in passed trips to Salt Lake City. Usually that meant Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko now plays in Minnesota, but Pachulia will still have a friendly face to show him around. This time around it will be Marvin Williams, a teammate in Atlanta for the previous seven years.
"Man, it's going to be another very cold place," Pachulia said. "When [Andrei] Kirilenko used to play there he used to take me out to dinner, but he's not there anymore. But Marvin is there. I'll definitely call Marvin."
Favorite thing to do: "I'll leave it in [Williams'] hands. I'm sure he's going to take me to some fun place."
Favorite place to eat: "Kirilenko used to take me to different places. Now It's up to Marvin. I hope it's not going to be some fast food (laughs). I hope it's going to be a good restaurant."
One thing you need: "My laptop. I've got everything. I've got Georgian Channels, I'll watch Georgian news, reading, I've got books. I'm not necessarily on one web site. It's different things. I like to read, I like to study. Sometimes I'll watch the same movies twice that I watched a couple of years before, kind of refresh my mind. I like to watch Georgian movies, actually, don't forget your traditions, your language. That's what I miss the most."
Friday, March 1 @ Phoenix:
Time Zone: Mountain
Average Feb. Weather: High, 72, low, 49
Home Court: US Airways Arena
All-Time Series Record: 48-66
Record in Phoenix: 16-40
2011-12 in Phoenix: 1-0. The win last season snapped a four-game losing streak
"Phoenix is nice. I like Phoenix," Pachulia said. "The hotel we stay is right across from a mall. So me and Al [Horford] always go there to that mall and walk around. It's nice weather outside, so life is good there."
Favorite thing to do: "They've got a good shopping mall. That's it. We don't stay there that much time. Also, you need to get some rest because it's going to be the fourth game of the trip, so you should be thinking about getting some rest."
Favorite place to eat: "My favorite place is the Capital Grille. Me and Vlad Radmanovic went to Capital Grille last year. They have a lot of great restaurants. Scottsdale also is good place.
One thing you need: "Possibly a bathing suit. I don't play golf. If it's really warm at the hotel there's a pool, so I'll just lay by the pool and read a book or listen to music."
Sunday, March 3 @ L.A. Lakers:
Time Zone: Pacific
Average Feb. Weather: High, 69, low, 49
Home Court: STAPLES Center
All-Time Series Record: 134-181
Atlanta Series Record: 43-72
Atlanta Record in Los Angeles: 16-42
2011-12 in Los Angeles: 0-1.
The Hawks have lost six straight at the Lakers and eight of nine. Good thing the weather's nice.
"L.A.'s great," Pachulia said. "Rodeo Drive, I like to go there. I wish we could stay there [longer] but we have a back-to-back."
Favorite thing to do: "Rodeo Drive is the place [for clothes]. There are so many shops and so many interesting designers, so it's just a place I spend a lot of time. Sometimes I get my hair cut in L.A. I have a hair stylist. So since we go there twice a year, we have a chance to go there twice a year, I get my hair cut. Not all the time, but a lot of times."
Favorite place to eat: "Katsuya is my favorite restaurant. There are a lot of great restaurants. But since I love sushi, Al likes sushi, too, so he's my go-to partner. Katsuya is our go-to place."
Monday, March 4 @ Denver:
Time Zone: Mountain
Average Feb. Weather: High, 49, low, 18
Home Court: Pepsi Center
All-Time Series Record: 40-35
Atlanta Record in Denver: 11-27
2011-12 in Denver: 0-1.
The Hawks have lost seven of eight in Denver. The good news is regardless of the result, it's the final stop before going home.
"It's back-to-back, Pachulia said. "Mostly I'll be drinking a lot of water because the altitude is so high, and it's going to be the last game, we'll be kind of tired. Plus we will get to the hotel very late the night before the game."
Favorite thing to do: "Probably rest will be the best thing for me (laughs). Rest and get ready for the last game of the trip. It's kind of hard to play because of the altitude. You get tired very soon during the game, but at the same time, you want to close the trip with a win."
Favorite place to eat: "Right next to the hotel there's an Italian restaurant. I always have lunch there. I don't remember the name. I just know they have great Italian food."
Jon Cooper is a freelance writer based in Atlanta
Second photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images