Archive for the 'Sasha Vujacic' Category

Farmar, Vujacic Return to Los Angeles

With the New Jersey Nets coming to town for a Friday night contest against the Lakers, so too do two players that earned a pair of championship rings for L.A. in Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.

Vujacic, traded in early December for Joe Smith, is playing a healthy 27.3 minutes per game, averaging 11.3 points with 3.1 rebounds and 1.17 steals. He hit a game-winning shot for the Nets last week against the Bulls, and scored 22 points against the Timberwolves on Jan. 1.

“I had seven great years here,” said Vujacic prior to Friday’s game. “I learned how to become a champion in the NBA, and this organization was always good to me from day one. When I come to L.A., it always feels like I’m home.”

Vujacic has been particularly happy to be playing minutes again, saying that he was “suffocating” without playing time, but is now “breathing again.”

Farmar has averaged 9.8 points in 24.7 minutes since signing with the Nets in the offseason, and played very well in the absence of usual starter Devin Harris against Milwaukee on Jan. 8, scoring 20 points with 10 assists in a narrow loss.

“I’m (excited),” said Farmar of returning to his hometown to collect his ring and play for the first time in an opposing jersey. “I don’t get excited about a lot of things, but we worked hard for it … it’s a big deal, and I’m trying to cherish it.”

When asked if he expects and nostalgia to kick in, Farmar talked about his former teammates.

“I’m always going to miss the guys here, and our relationships were amazing,” he said. “You miss the day-to-day interactions with all the guys you’ve been to war with, but I’m happy to be playing ball, learning and trying to grow in my career.

Farmar will receive his championship ring in a ceremony prior the game from Laker captains Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, while a video of Vujacic highlights with the Lakers will be shown at some point during the game.

Lakers Trade Vujacic, Acquire Joe Smith

The Lakers have traded guard Sasha Vujacic and their 2011 first round pick to New Jersey for Joe Smith, Golden State’s second round pick in 2011, Chicago’s second round pick in 2012 and the rights to Ukraine’s Sergei Lishouk.

The deal is contingent on both Vujacic and Smith passing physicals. Lakers team spokesman John Black said that the team plans to put Smith through a physical in Philadelphia in advance of L.A.’s Friday evening game against the 76ers, and if he passes, he’ll be eligible to play in that contest.

The trade was finalized early on Wednesday morning, since Dec. 15 was the first day offseason signees like Smith could be traded. Houston was also involved in the three team trade, and principally received Terrence Williams from the Nets.

Vujacic, drafted by the Lakers back in 2004 out of his native Slovenia, won two championships with the Lakers and had his best season in 2007-08, when he played 17.8 minutes per game to score 8.8 points while shooting a still-team-record 43.7 percent from three-point territory.

Vujacic said he was given a heads up about the potential trade after L.A.’s Tuesday night victory in Washington, but said he “did not know what to say at the moment” as nothing was yet official. He had been playing only 4.9 minutes per game in the 10 games in which he appeared this season, lost in the guard rotation behind starters Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and subs Steve Blake and Shannon Brown. Vujacic will join fellow former Laker Jordan Farmar with the Nets.

Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft, will be joining the 13th team of his 16-year career. He appeared in four games this season for New Jersey, playing a total of 24 minutes to score two points with three rebounds, and is considered a strong locker room presence.

Lishouk, 28, was originally selected with the 44th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, and his rights were traded to Houston on February 21, 2008. A 6-11.5 center, Lishouk is currently playing for Valencia in Spain.

Per Lakers team policy, the terms of the trade were not disclosed.

Vujacic Suffers Concussion

UCLA Health SystemLakers guard Sasha Vujacic suffered a concussion after being inadvertently struck in the face, just below the left eye, by an errant elbow from Lamar Odom in Thursday’s practice.

Vujacic will be monitored closely and re-evaluated on Friday, but for now is considered out indefinitely from basketball activity.

2010 Exit Interview: Sasha Vujacic

vujacicSasha Vujacic battled various minor injuries throughout the 2009-10 season and struggled to get into a rhythm, playing only 8.6 minutes per game in the regular season to average 2.8 points and 1.2 rebounds.

He missed the first two rounds of the playoffs after suffering a severely sprained ankle in L.A.’s regular season finale, but had his best game of the playoffs in Game 6 of the Finals, scoring nine points in 14 minutes off the bench.

The highlights of his exit interview:

- (On the season): “I think that as a team we had a lot of ups and downs. We were always kind of pushed through tough situations. Individually it was a tough season. Injuries, playing, not playing, different kinds of things. Winning it eliminates everything, hard work pays off.”

- Vujacic was used during parts of the season particularly after the All-Star break thanks to his improved defense, as noted several times by Phil Jackson. Vujacic noted how tough it was to get injured in the regular season’s last game after he felt like he was beginning to find a rhythm, but noted this about his return: “There are different ways to help the team than just playing, and when I came back I was happy …. when I started walking, practicing … it was good the way we ended it. For next year it’s obvious, I just want to get better.”

- (On his conversation with Phil Jackson and Mitch Kupchak): “It was a good talk with PJ and Mitch. We talked about the workouts I was going to do in the summer time. Coach was making me better throughout the year. Sometimes it’s the mental training that PJ does with all the players, and I’m glad I kind of passed the test. I’m glad he showed me confidence in the (biggest game of the year).” Vujacic of course referred to Jackson putting him into the final moments of Game 7 of the Finals when clutch free throws were needed, which Sasha swished.

- (On finding ways to contribute on such a talented team): “If you look at our team we have so many weapons, and when you have a team like that, you have to find different ways in different (times) to help the team. Obviously coming into next year, it’s no secret it is my contract year, not only for myself but for the team I want to really do good. I want to have a big role on the team.”

- (On playing point guard, and the possibility of doing so next season in L.A.): “I love it. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s a big responsibility. PJ also through the practices and some games was testing me, putting me out there not only this year but years before. I love it, I like it, I used to play point guard in Europe.”

- (On Kobe Bryant’s reaction to Slovenia tying Team USA at the World Cup and getting a late goal negated by the ref): “He didn’t take it very well. He was a little bit frustrated, but that was a tough game.”

- Sasha’s immediate plans (after being asked if he were going to the World Cup): “Obviously I’m going to be at another sporting event (tennis watching his girlfriend at Wimbledon).”

- Vujacic said he will not be playing for the Slovenian National Team, and has had no contact with countryman Goran Dragic – with whom he exchanged words and technicals – since the Phoenix series.

The Lakers on Jimmy Kimmel Live

For the second season in a row the Lakers made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live as the reigning NBA Champions. Click below to see all five parts.

1-on-1 Video: Sasha Vujacic

It’s no coincidence that Sasha Vujacic is good at getting around screens, as noted throughout the season by no less authority than Phil Jackson.

After all, Vujacic’s a shooter himself that has spent time throughout his basketball life running around the screens set by his teammates to enable clean looks at the rim.

As Vujacic explained to us after L.A.’s Friday afternoon workout at STAPLES Center following the team’s Game 1 victory over Boston*, his ability to run around screens on offense has directly helped him when it comes to chasing opponents around similarly set screens when he’s defending.
*The Slovenian also gave his overall impressions of L.A.’s effort, talked about the additions of Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest in the Boston matchup and offered his keys to Sunday’s Game 2. Click play above to watch.

With Derek Fisher being called for two personal fouls in the first two minutes of Thursday’s contest, Jackson called up Vujacic to guard Boston’s Ray Allen, perhaps the league’s best at running around screens (unless you want to make an argument for Rip Hamilton).

As it turned out, Allen only got two shots off in five first quarter minutes, making one, before heading to the bench with two fouls of his own.

Vujacic did his job, if only for a short spell, and knows it won’t be the only time he’s called upon to chase Allen all over the floor in the series.

Gasol Back to Practice, Vujacic Expecting Return

Lakers big man Pau Gasol was back on the practice floor with his teammates Friday afternoon after being sent home from Wednesday’s session with sinusitis.

“Feel good. Got a good practice in. Got a good workout in,” said Gasol.

Pau participated fully, including the final five-on-five scrimmage where he ran with the first team.

“He looked like he probably missed a day or two here and there, but he got better as the practice went on,” added Phil Jackson.

The extra days off have given some Lakers time to heal up and strengthen various ailments. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum were held out of practice for the second consecutive time, but Jackson indicated that their participation would ramp up leading into Monday’s Game 1.

“They’ll be doing some stuff on the court tomorrow. Participating in a full out practice? Probably not. Shooting the ball and doing some things like that, we’ll get into that,” said Jackson.

Sasha Vujacic, who has been sidelined since the beginning of the playoffs with a severe left ankle sprain, practiced again today.

“He’s doing alright,” said Jackson. “He’s got some residual things that came out of his ankle injury. He had to leave the court today but he came back out and played.”

Vujacic himself expects to be ready for Monday and noted that the extra days off have helped strengthen older injuries.

“I’ll be active and I’m ready to go. That was my fourth practice or so. I’m really excited. I can’t wait.”

The opportunities for Sasha could be immediate according to Phil Jackson.

“I basically told him that theres an opportunity for him to play in this series if he gets himself back and healthy. He’s got an idea of what this series is like and how he’s got to play.”

Vujacic could return for L.A.’s next game

60157707The Lakers could get Sasha Vujacic back in their next game, whether it’s Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi’s against Utah or Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix.

Phil Jackson relayed as much prior to Game 4 of L.A.’s series against the Jazz, and Vujacic confirmed his head coach’s words in the locker room.

The Slovenian said that his ankle remains tender, but he thinks it will be at least good enough to do something positive for the Lakers and for himself after an injury-riddled 2009-10.

“Sasha has had one injury after another, all season long,” said Jackson. “Starting in the summer time when he was working with the Slovenian team (through now).

“Every time he’s come back, he’s played well and he’s had an opportunity to help us, and then gotten injured again. We hope he has the same attitude when he comes back this time.”

It’s not offense, for which Vujacic initially earned his “Machine” moniker, but defense that Jackson and his staff are most looking forward to getting back into the rotation.

“We really look at his defense,” said Jackson. “Covering guys coming off picks with his quickness and ability to focus on guys.”

What remains to be seen is whether the players Vujacic will cover are named Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews of the Jazz or Leandro Barbosa and countryman Goran Dragic of the Suns.

5/5 Injury Update: Sasha Vujacic

Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic told reporters prior to Tuesday’s Game 2 win over Utah that he’s ahead of schedule on the rehabilitation of his left ankle, though a timetable still does not exist for his return.

“I ran today a little bit on the Alter G, and it’s going really well, actually,” he said. “Hopefully (I can return) very soon.”

Vujacic is past the wait-for-the-swelling-to-go-down portion of his rehab, and on to strengthening the ankle and surrounding muscles.

Needless to say, a return can’t come soon enough for the Slovenian.

“It’s one of the worst things not playing and watching the games, especially when the playoffs come,” he said. “I would love to be on the court. That’s what most of us live for.”

4/26 Injury Update: Sasha Vujacic

Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic addressed media members for the first time since severely spraining his left ankle in the final game of the regular season, having ditched his crutches a few days ago while keeping a walking boot.

“My ankle is definitely getting better, and I’m excited to be back in a few weeks, hopefully two,” he said.

Certainly better than it looked in this picture.

Vujacic explained that he is not sure whether he will be available should the Lakers advance to the second round; obviously his goal is to return as soon as possible, but his rehabilitation program has no specific return date. Sitting out, of course, has been anything but easy.

“The worst thing that could happen to an athlete or someone that wants to win and be out there,” said the Slovenian. “I’m trying to stay positive and put it behind me.”

Since the initial injury, on April 14, Vujacic and L.A.’s training staff has focused on reducing the swelling in the ankle and getting his range of motion back. The next step will be to strengthen the ankle.

In the meantime, Vujacic said he’s taken to shooting while seated in a chair, which isn’t much of a surprise.