This may be hard for you to believe right now, but during the summer of 2008, there was some serious drama about whether or not the Lakers would be able to re-sign Sasha Vujacic, a.k.a. The Machine. So much so, in fact, that he was threatening to take his talents to South Beach Europe. No, really.
Lakers reserve guard Sasha Vujacic, a restricted free agent, is prepared to leave the team and accept an offer from a European team in the next few days if the Lakers don't make him an offer he deems fair, according to a source in the Vujacic camp who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
The source said Vujacic is seeking a multiyear deal from the Lakers averaging about $5 million a year. Vujacic was hoping for a six-year deal, but anticipated it could be a shorter contract.
Because the Lakers are over the luxury tax, they would be assessed an amount equal to any sum they spend over it.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been negotiating with Vujacic's agent, Rob Pelinka.
"We are very aware of the global market as it has changed over the years. It was our desire to bring Sasha and Ronny back. It continues to be our desire to bring Sasha back," Kupchak said Thursday after hearing of Vujacic's ultimatum. "However, with the ever-changing marketplace that Europe has become, a player, in order to cover his bases, can negotiate with his NBA team and, at the same time, have a plan that allows him to have the possibility of going overseas."
I loved it. Loved it, I tell you. Especially the "according to a source in the Vujacic camp who spoke only on the condition of anonymity" part. It may as well have said, "according to Sasha Vujacic, who is posing as a member of his make-believe camp and therefore needs to speak only on the condition of anonymity."
Mind you, these crazy demands were issued shortly after Vujacic got used by Ray Allen like a Clorox Wipe on a stripper pole...during a critical possession of the NBA Finals no less:
Anyway, the possibility of losing Vujacic to some foreign team actually got some people worked up. People like Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie. Okay, not really. Dwyer was kidding. Most likely. But I distinctly remember reading some Lakers fan posts urging Kupchak to build a wall of money around the United States over which Vujacic would never be able to escape.
Lakers restricted free agent guard Sasha Vujacic has agreed to a three-year, $15 million contract after emerging last season as a key member of the Western Conference champions.
"We felt Sasha made great progress in this past year, and our coach showed great confidence in playing him the second half of the season," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday in confirming the agreement, first reported by the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "Assuming he continues to work as hard during the offseason as he has in the past, I don't see any reason that trend wouldn't continue."
The 24-year-old Vujacic averaged a career-high 8.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 72 games this season, and 8.1 points 2.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists while playing in all 21 playoff games.
Vujacic drew national attention June 10, scoring a career playoff high 20 points including a crucial 3-pointer with a little under two minutes remaining in the Lakers' 87-81 victory over the Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA finals.
Hey, sure, why not? Vujacic had been pesky on defense and a pretty reliable shooter on offense (45% from the field and 43 percent on threes). He had that good Finals game. And the fans loved Sasha. Even Kobe Bryant loved Sasha. Just ask...Sasha:
"They are my team. They brought me over from Europe and I feel at home in this organization and in LA. Everywhere I'd go, Lakers fans would say to me, 'Please re-sign, you have to come back Machine.' And that really gave me a warm feeling about it."
"It's always kind of been older brother, younger brother with Kobe and I. Kobe called me on the first day of free agency and said, 'I love you and we all need you. But whatever you decide, I'll stand by your decision.' Then he called me on the last day I was deciding and at the end of the conversation, we both said, 'Let's do it.'"
Wow. With all that love, and the newfound riches, there was nothing holding Vujacic back from having the best season of his career. Nothing except the fact that he wasn't really all that good to begin with.
During the 2008-09 season, Sasha regressed. His scoring average dropped 3 PPG and his shooting went to hell (38% from the field, 36 from downtown). His decline into a pasty mass of useless man-flesh highlighted the only potential vulnerability in L.A.'s championship hopes: Lack of depth at the guard position.
In all fairness to Vujacic -- I can't believe I'm even typing those words -- he did start the season with a fractured ankle (as an anonymous reader reminded me). That would qualify as a setback. Said Vujacic: "I realize that it is what it is. You've got to play it smart. And, it's going to be OK. Right now, it's just a little bit frustrating."
Even more so for Lakers fans, Sasha.
If Vujacic's regular season was a failure -- and let's face it, he managed to disappoint on a team with the perpetually disappointing Luke Walton and Adam Morrison -- his playoffs were the rotten cherry on the poop sundae of his career. Vujacic logged 250 minutes over 23 postseason games and was, without a doubt, the most cadaverous of the active Lakers (Morrison wasn't on the playoff roster). He averaged only 3 PPG on 26 percent shooting. His PER was 4.2. He compiled an Offensive Rating of 82 and a Defensive Rating of 104. He finished the playoffs with a Win Share of -0.1, tied with D.J. Mbenga for worst on the team. And at least Mbenga had an excuse: He only played 16 postseason minutes. All I know is finishing with a negative Win Share score on a championship team is a pretty bad sign. Much like waking up with a pit bull's mouth clamped to your genitals is a bad sign.
What's more, Vujacic's performance in the championship series nearly earned him "Legally Deceased" status. In five Finals games, Sasha scored exactly zero points on 0-for-6 shooting. His series totals were: 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover and 3 fouls. It's like the Magic paid him off to suck. (Huh. That sounded bad.) The only thing he didn't do was whack Kobe Bryant in the knee with a baseball bat.
Money well-spent, Mitch.
Beyond his general uselessness in his team's championship cause, Vujacic just bugs the shit out of me. He's one of the biggest, creepiest, most annoying douchebags in the NBA. If not the biggest. As Stormin' Normam Disciple of Not Qualified To Comment said: "This whiny, flopping, jabbering idiot pisses everyone off." That's right: Everyone. Even teammates. I mean, the dude tried to start some junk at practice with Adam Morrison of all people (said Kobe: "A lot of meowing going on out there. The claws coming out.")
Seriously, his teammates can't stand him:
I mean, really:
And don't think it's only his teammates. Remember when Carmelo Anthony tried to choke a bitch? Check it:
And let's not forget this ill-timed nonsense from the 2010 Western Conference Finals...
...which almost earned him a death sentence from Kobe:
I don't think he was joking. Considering what Kobe's legal team has done for him in the past, I'm surprised Sasha didn't enter witness protection.
So yeah. I have a little extra emnity for this basketball waste product. It's bad enough the guy is being paid millions to mop the Lakers bench with his Eurotrash ass. He's also a miserable excuse for a human being. God, I hate that guy.
But he has a ring. In fact, he's got two.
Update! Sincere apologies for not linking to the Vujachicks site, something so utterly bawful it is retroactively erasing cool things from our reality even as you read these words. As of this writing, several classic Atari 2600 games no longer exist...but that damn E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game still does. Thanks, Vujachicks.