Archive for the 'Sasha Vujacic' Category

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Sasha Vujacic’s Ankle (Ouch…)

sasha_ankle_1How bad is Sasha Vujacic’s ankle?

That bad.

In the final game of L.A.’s regular season, the guard severely sprained the pictured left ankle in the second quarter after being clipped on the way down from a jump shot.

You can see why there is no timetable for the Slovenian’s return, and why he’ll obviously not come back for the Lakers’ first round matchup with Oklahoma City. At least.

4/15 Injury Update: Sasha Vujacic’s Ankle

blog_100415sashavujacicA MRI taken by Dr. Ken Jung on Wednesday morning confirmed that Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic suffered a severe ankle sprain in the second quarter of L.A.’s Tuesday evening loss to the Clippers.

As the team reported after the game, there was no fracture to Vujacic’s ankle, but Lakers Spokesman John Black called it a “serious injury” that will take the Slovenian weeks, not days, from which to recover.

The team has put no official timetable on Vujacic’s potential return, but he is not expected to be available for at least L.A.’s first round series against Oklahoma City.

Vujacic Severely Sprains Left Ankle vs. Clips

L.A.’s primary goal heading into the postseason was to be as healthy as possible, but to the contrary, the team suffered an unfortunate injury for the second straight game when Sasha Vujacic severely sprained his left ankle in the second quarter of L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest against the Clippers.

This after Jordan Farmar strained his left hamstring in Tuesday evening’s win against Sacramento, though Farmar did say he would be “fine” and is expected to play in L.A.’s first playoff game.

While the team won’t put a timetable on Vujacic’s potential return, X-rays did show that he suffered no fracture in the ankle. He will have an MRI on Thursday morning to give the team a more clear picture of the injury.

Vujacic was clipped by guard Mardy Collins while on his way down from a jump shot, rolling over on the ankle before being helped off the floor by Lakers Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti and Farmar.

The injury came a game after Vujacic’s best performance of the season, when he scored a season-high 13 points and added six rebounds (also a season high) in the Tuesday win over the Kings. The Slovenian had eight points on 3-of-7 shooting against the Clips before hurting the ankle.

Vujacic Gets Some Oxygen

60109544For the NBA’s bench players, playing time is like oxygen.

That naturally holds true for any team’s reserves, but for the Lakers’ bench in particular – sitting behind the league’s most talented starting lineup – PT is like the water’s surface to a diver scrambling upwards with an empty tank.

It’s a bit different for each player: Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown always want more minutes, but at least they can expect relatively consistent burn in their defined roles; Luke Walton’s eager to get into the rotation after battling back issues all season; Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga work hard in practice daily to stay ready for spot duty behind L.A.’s three star bigs; Adam Morrison covets the chance to show he can still play.

And boy, does Sasha Vujacic want to be on the floor.

After falling almost completely out of Phil Jackson’s rotation this season after a diminished role in post-Machine 2008-09, Vujacic certainly wasn’t expecting to start for just the 12th time in his career and first time since 2006-07 on Friday night in Denver.

But when Kobe Bryant decided not to play in order to rest his body (knee, ankle, finger, etc.), Jackson called on the Slovenian, and played him for 25 minutes and 39 seconds, by far the most run Vujacic had received all season and only the third time he’d played at least 20 minutes.

While the 6-7 guard didn’t have the kind of game he’d hoped for from a shooting standpoint – he made only 3-of-12 attempts from the field (2-of-7 from three) – just being on the floor for an extended run was for Vujacic like opening a packet of Lucky Charms featuring only marshmallows.

“Today was an important game for me to get a feel for things,” said Vujacic, who added three boards and an assist. “I was a little too passive (to start), but it was great to be out there for a long time.”

Understandably, getting into an individual rhythm heading into the playoffs isn’t easy for someone who’d played a total of 96 minutes since the All-Star break (that’s less than three games for Bryant), even if finding a way to contribute regardless of how limited the role is incumbent upon every pro player.

“I just want to be able to help the team,” said Sasha. “Tonight I got a feel for the game. The (missed) shots I’m not worried about, it’s just getting in the flow. I’m mad we lost, but it’s a great opportunity for guys to get it going.”

Since Vujacic hadn’t been playing much of late anyway, his 26 minutes in Bryant’s place didn’t necessarily increase the burn for the rest of the bench in his stead. Still, Brown scored 12 points with a block in his nearly 27 minutes, Farmar scored seven points with three boards, Powell managed four points with five boards in 21 minutes and Mbenga a basket and four rebounds in only 4:29. In sum, 25 points and 13 boards from the bench wasn’t bad.

It was Brown, not Vujacic, who started the second half. The unit featuring the high-flier and the rest of the starters played so well that Jackson didn’t make a substitution in the quarter, as L.A. went on a 27-11 run after Denver scored the first five points to turn a 10-point halftime deficit into a 1-point lead into the fourth. Vujacic then returned with Farmar and Powell, and promptly sank two 3-pointers in a 2-minute span, the second after he’d grabbed an offensive rebound and then spotted up in the corner before catching Powell’s nice skip pass.

Vujacic is hoping, and planning, to bring some of that to the Lakers in Minnesota on Friday night, a game in which Bryant is not expected to play.

“Of course I’d love to play more minutes again,” Vujacic said. “I’ve been eager for a long time. I just want to carry on. Today wasn’t a great shooting night, but I’m not worried about my shots. Tomorrow I want to do different things, mix it up, but keep going and keep it consistent up to the playoffs.”

Getting Kobe well-rested for those playoffs exists in its own vacuum, surely, but if Vujacic can use even a brief absence from No. 24 to find a semblance of rhythm, the Lakers are the beneficiary.

Sure enough, just a bit of oxygen can go a long way for a bench player in the NBA.

Vujacic “Probable” For Raptors Game

Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic is available to play for the first time since spraining his right shoulder on Feb. 18 against Boston.

The 6-7 Slovenian told us after Tuesday’s shootaround – during which he lofted shot after shot at the basket – that he was feeling much better and expected to go against the Raptors. While wearing a shoulder brace, Vujacic added that he’s been painfully eager to return to the team, which went 4-4 in his 8-game absence.

Vujacic went through practice with the team on Monday, staying late to put up some additional shots with Ron Artest.

Previously, Vujacic had been unable to shoot with his right hand, instead likely setting an NBA record for most off-hand free throw attempts.

Unofficially, that is.

Vujacic Out With Shoulder Sprain

In Thursday’s narrow loss to Boston, Sasha Vujacic suffered a grade one sprain of the right shoulder and is expected to miss a few games.

We’ll check in with Vujacic, if possible, after Monday’s practice to see if there’s an update as to his status.

Vujacic Feeling Better

Quick update on Sasha Vujacic…

The Lakers guard, who strained his hamstring last week, said prior to Monday’s game against Orlando that he’s “feeling better.”

Vujacic explained that as long as he has enough time to warm up, he doesn’t expect the hamstring to hamper his ability to play his game, and that it does not affect his jump shot.

The Slovenian is coming off a 10-point performance against the L.A. Clippers that included two three-pointers and raised his three-point shooting percentage to 40 percent (18-of-45).

Sasha Checks in on Slovenia & The World Cup

Sasha Vujacic - Darren CollisonWe’ve mentioned before that the current band of Lakers happens to have a more-than-usual amount of serious soccer fans for an NBA locker room, from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Adam Morrison and others.

So when the World Cup Draw was announced last week, there were more than a few excited Lakers in the locker room. Team USA had what many would consider a favorable draw, with England, Algeria and yes, Sasha’s Slovenia making up its group.

So on June 18 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Americans will face the Slovenians, with trash talking rights on the line. We spent a few minutes talking to Vujacic about the matchup:

MT: I worry that the U.S. might underestimate Slovenia or Algeria, nations without big soccer names yet full of solid international talent. Slovenia’s ranked 33rd in FIFA, Algeria 28th and the US 14th. Can Slovenia take advantage?
Vujacic: When Spain played America (in the Confederation’s Cup), they said, ‘Those little Americans with no soccer tradition,’ they kind of underestimated their opponent and they lost. I think you have to be smart before you draw any conclusions. It’s an interesting draw, but it’s going to be hard for any team. England is definitely the favorite, and the other three teams will do their best.

MT: What’s the story on your countrymen? How good are they?
Vujacic: They’re better than they’re ranked. They play against really good teams in Europe, and all the guys play on very respected European soccer teams. They have good soccer IQ and I think they have a great chance to advance.

MT: There are only about two million people in Slovenia, as after the former Yugoslavia split up, much of the talent dispersed as well. Does that make it more special for Slovenia to qualify on its own, just as Serbia did?
Vujacic: It does, of course. Yugoslavia used to have a great soccer team, but then the country split and every (new) country fought for itself. When Slovenia qualified, they were celebrating not for days but for weeks. It’s a source of great pride. Slovenia was not known for soccer, but I’m going to be cheering for Serbia as well. It is both fortunate and unfortunate that the talent had to split, with everyone now representing their own country.

MT: In basketball, the better team almost always seems to win, but in soccer, nothing is ever guaranteed. You can run into a hot goalie, hit the post a few times or get a tough break on a penalty kick at your own end. Just look at Greece winning Euro 2004…
Vujacic: Right, when they beat Portugal, Greece scored only one goal and then played defense. If you were to tell me that Greece would have won the European Championships, I never would have believed it in 100 years. But that’s how it goes sometimes.

MT: That said, do you think Americans realize that being a favorite in the rankings doesn’t necessarily translate into wins?
Vujacic: I respect the US team, and I think especially since David (Beckham) came to the States, the level went up. But still, we know that in Europe they play the best soccer. So it’s hard to predict, and there are still six months before the games … Hopefully Slovenia understands how important it is and that anybody can win it.

Vujacic Checks In

Sasha VujacicSeeing Sasha Vujacic shoot the basketball after Lakers practice has concluded is like seeing Lady Gaga in a ridiculous outfit … It’s all but a guarantee.

It was no different on Saturday afternoon at L.A.’s facility, as the Slovenian ran through a series of shooting drills with assistant coach/advance scout Rasheed Hazzard. Afterwards, Vujacic told us about his health, his shot and Ron Artest:

On how he’s feeling: I feel good, I feel excited. It’s been four days now, and I think everyone’s a little bit tired, but we’re pushing through it and working really hard heading into our first game on Wednesday. Last year I missed the whole training camp after injuring myself on the first day, but heading into this year I had been doing a lot of rehab and everything looks good right now.

On his shooting It will be better on October 27, but right now it’s OK. Obviously last year I didn’t shoot the ball the way I was supposed to or the way I can, but this year I’m not even thinking about that. I know what I can do and how to do it, so I’m just going to take the right shots and it will work out.

On playing some point guard in practice: I think Phil (Jackson) has been training me throughout my years here to play both guard positions, and I’m lucky to be able to do it. I’ve learned a lot, and each year become more mature. Last season and this summer helped me from that point of view, and having Kobe (Bryant) on my side, calming me down sometimes, is good for me. I like both positions, and wherever Phil needs me, that’s where I’ll play.

On if anyone has stood out to him in practice: I think everyone came into camp prepared. It’s no secret that Ron (Artest) is a new player to us, and he’s just a very, very strong man. That’s the way he plays. I think he fits in pretty well with us – his toughness and his defensive skills are incredible and that’s something we needed, something that will benefit us throughout the season and into the playoffs. He (guarded me today) and he’s like a train coming at you. That’s good though, I like it.

Several Lakers Gather for Wednesday Workout

Training camp is still a few weeks away for the Lakers, yet several of the players gathered in El Segundo on Wednesday afternoon to shoot, lift and play some pick up ball.

As Shannon Brown explained in the above @Lakers Twitvid, he was joined by Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Ron Artest, Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell and Adam Morrison in addition to some D-Leaguers (to round out a 5-on-5 run).

Prior to the full-court action, some of the players went through lifting and general strenghtening activities with Lakers Director of Athletic Performance Chip Schaefer (Walton and Brown specifically), others got some shots up (Vujacic and Farmar) while others worked with assistant coach Brian Shaw and advance scout/assistant coach Rasheed Hazzard on running L.A.’s offense (Artest and Brown).

“It’s just good to get back in here,” said Walton. “I think we’re all excited about the coming season and eager to get ready to go.”

It won’t be long, since the first preseason game is only three weeks away on October 7 against Golden State.