Four years ago, Zaza Pachulia said he planned to make himself comfortable in Atlanta. A 21-year-old free agent at the time and barely knee-deep into his NBA career, Pachulia sounded a bit presumptuous at the time. But it turns out he was right.
The free-agent center agreed to terms with the Hawks on a new four-year deal worth an estimated $19 million, according to two people familiar with the situation.
His deal comes a day after the Hawks agreed to terms on a three-year, $18 million deal with veteran point guard Mike Bibby. That puts two of the Hawks' coveted free agents from this past season back on the roster.
Forward Marvin Williams, a restricted free agent, and guard Flip Murray, an unrestricted free agent, have yet to come to terms on new contracts, though it's unclear as to whether the Hawks plan to pursue a future with Murray.
Josh Childress played in Greece last season, but he has until July 15 to exercise an opt-out clause in his contract with Olympiakos. The Hawks own his NBA rights, and he's a restricted free agent.
When contacted Wednesday, Hawks general manager Rick Sund said he would not comment on any negotiations with any player and would not comment at all until a player actually signs.
The Hawks' activity this early in the process speaks volumes about just how crucial a summer this is for the franchise, coming off back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in a decade.
Pachulia played a significant role in the Hawks' rise from the bottom of the league standings the season before he joined the team. He started 78 games and averaged 11.7 points and 9.7 rebounds during the 2005-06 season and followed that with a career-high 12.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in 47 starts in his second season.
The arrival of Al Horford shifted Pachulia to a reserve role, and he responded by being one of the Hawks' most consistent players off the bench with his minutes cut nearly in half, from nearly 30 per game in his first two years to 15 in his third season.
Still, Pachulia managed 5.2 points and 4.0 rebounds during the 2007-08 season in a limited role as the Hawks made their first playoff appearance in a decade.
Pachulia had one of the most memorable moments during that playoff run against the eventual champion Boston Celtics when he was nose to nose with Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett during an altercation in Game 4.
This past season, Pachulia started 26 games, with both Horford and Josh Smith missing significant time because of injuries. Pachulia averaged 6.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 19.1 minutes per game, saving one of his best outings for the playoffs again.
He came off the bench to score 12 points and grab a playoff-career-high 18 rebounds to help the Hawks to a crucial Game 4 win on the road against Miami in their first-round series. The Hawks had lost back-to-back games before that but rebounded to win the series in seven.