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Sasha Vujacic is not going to Europe.
The Lakers' reserve guard signed a new three-year, $15 million deal on Friday, thus ending speculation that he would be the latest member of the Association to be lured overseas.
Sounds from here like good news for the Lakers and a pain for the rest of the league. Figuring out how to feel about this guy is proving rather difficult.Read More..All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA
Purely from the standpoint of basketball skill, it follows obviously enough that if Vujacic is good for the Lakers, he is going to cause problems for opponents. There is no mistaking that he is valuable to the purple and gold.
Vujacic has made improvements in each of his four years en route to becoming a very solid provider of instant offense off the bench for the Lakers. He has become a three-point specialist, with well more than half of his attempts coming from deep. Vujacic's accuracy from out there rose to a career high 43.7 percent this year, which helped him finish with a criminally good 60.5 true shooting percentage for the season. Between his shooting from beyond the arc and his ability to shot-fake, dribble once or twice, stop on a dime and shoot the long two, Vujacic now gives the Lakers an excellent option for stretching the floor around Kobe Bryant. He isn't afraid of taking big shots either as was made painfully clear to Celts fans with the 20 points he put up in the Lakers' Game 3 win in the Finals, a performance that included a huge corner trey with time winding down. The man can shoot the ball, and he can shoot it well.
But in addition to the shots he hits, Vujacic seems to do an upper-echelon job of rubbing opponents the wrong way.
The player simply strikes me as an annoyance. His face-scrunched, grimacing, palms-upward, "Who, me? I didn't do it! How can you possibly treat me like this?" expression ranks with anyone in the league save for possibly Luis Scola, who drives me absolutely insane with this. He constantly seems to be yakking at other players and often his teammates, which has in the past resulted in such incidents as Kobe elbowing him in the face on the bench. A quick YouTube search turns up several incidences of Vujacic having trouble with other players, including Carmelo Anthony giving him a shot to the throat, Renaldo Balkman putting his elbow in his face and Rafer Alston being separated from Vujacic after an unnecessarily hard foul on Vujacic's part in the final minute of a blow-out Rockets win this past season. The guy doesn't restrict his whining to between the lines either, and Celtics fans will forever remember his pitiful complaining about the refereeing in Game 4 of the Finals, when he claimed that he couldn't guard Ray Allen because everything he did "was a foul."
Less reasonably, that his oil-soaked hairdo makes me routinely consider him one of the grimiest players in the league doesn't help his case either. In all seriousness, the guy comes off as a big-time baiter and complainer, which makes it easy to see why he might get under the skin of some.
But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I'm simply holding Vujacic to blame for the jersey he wears rather than the style he plays. There are a few "Love 'em if ya have 'em, hate 'em if you don't" guys in this league, and by and large, Sasha Vujacic seems to fit into that category. He provides a valuable service to his team (shooting), and while he isn't a great defender by any stretch, he does seem to hustle at that end of the floor and occasionally serves as a bit of a pest. While he might annoy opponents, he often gest the best of them (Anthony was ejected for the shot to the throat, and Balkman received an offensive foul, and those are just two of Vujacic's victims). Despite his relative lack of size, he doesn't step back from anyone.
Yes, Vujacic certainly does a bit too much whining, but the rest of his game makes it clear that he is working for not just himself but for his team as well. He plays hard and he plays aggressively, and on any player in the league not playing for the Lakers, it's hard to imagine that being viewed as anything but positive.
And in the most telling sign of all, prior to Friday's res-signing, I had spent my share of time considering whether or not it would be enticing to have this guy as a Celtic as well. He would have provided some scoring punch off the bench and a bit of energy on both ends of the floor. Not saying I would have wanted him for sure (there's still just that something about the guy that makes him come off as dislikable), but had he been more available to the Celts (hard to imagine the Lakers would have let him sign here), it would seem that the green would have at least thought about him.
So we turn this one over to you. With the exception of the natural animosity that comes toward anyone wearing a Lakers jersey in Boston, is the hustling swingman really anything worse than a pest who often successfully gets under the skin of opponents?
Here's having trouble leaning away from a 'no' answer on that last inquiry.