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Sasha Vujacic's victory-clinching free throws provides positive end to adversarial season

As Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic stepped to the free-throw line, he showed a determined and even-keel demeanor. It's moments like these that he cherishes, where his contribution can significantly affect the outcome of an important game. That's why he wasn't fazed one bit when he went to the stripe, knowing his two foul shots with 11.7 seconds remaining could prove instrumental in widening the Lakers' two-point lead.

"I knew we were about to win the game," Vujacic said. "We didn't want to give them a chance to come back or make some crazy shots. I had to make two free throws. I did it."

He sure did. Vujacic sank both free throws without a problem, securing the Lakers' 83-79 Game 7 NBA Finals victory Thursday over the Boston Celtics.

Vujacic's contributions went beyond getting revenge against Boston for the Lakers' 2008 Finals loss, a defeat that irked Vujacic so much that he couldn't stand seeing the color green. "The Celtics destroyed my summer," Vujacic said. "I'm not going to lie to you." The effort went beyond the fact that Vujacic's minutes increased throughout the Boston series. It also speaks to Vujacic ending the season on a high note after experiencing plenty of frustrations.

"A lot of ups downs," Vujacic said of his 2009-10 season, which entailed averaging 2.8 points in 8.6 minutes, both career lows. "Playing, not playing. Injuries. To think, two months ago I couldn't walk. It's great to make a recovery process, come back and play again."

Vujacic is referring to when he sprained his left ankle with 2:51 left in the second quarter of the Lakers' season finale after Clippers guard Mardy Collins fouled him on a three-point attempt. After Vujacic attempted a 20-foot jumper from the left corner, he landed on Collins’ foot. Vujacic lay on the sideline wincing in pain before trainer Gary Vitti and reserve Jordan Farmar helped him off the court.

Vujacic had been on a tear before his ankle injury. After he scored a season-high 13 points against Sacramento the previous night, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson suggested Vujacic would receive heavy minutes in the postseason. It provided a remarkable possibility considering Vujacic essentially played himself out of the rotation two weeks earlier after arguing with assistant coaches during the Lakers' 91-75 loss to Oklahoma City on March 26.

He experienced similar frustrations after suffering a right shoulder sprain on Feb. 19 against Boston. Before that injury, his minutes had picked up ever since during Kobe Bryant's five-game absence because of a sprained left ankle. There was a clear increase in production in the last five games during Bryant's absence compared to his season average, including points (2.5 to 4.4), rebounds (1.1 to 2.0) and assists (0.6 to 1.8).

Even though Vujacic returned in time for the Western Conference finals, Vujacic only played in three of the six games. He surely didn't help his cause when his scuffle with fellow Slovenian Goran Dragic nearly cost the Lakers' Game 6 West Finals matchup against Phoenix, prompting Bryant to suggest he wanted to kill Vujacic. Bryant's interaction with Vujacic looked much different once Vujacic made those two free throws, with the two embracing each other as they realized they were seconds away from becoming repeat champions. 

"To have my teammates believing in me and coaches think I can seal the deal," Vujacic says, "is a great feeling."

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
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ALLNET... Kyle Korver would be my primary free agent target, too. He is the deead-eye outside shooter that we need in the Triangle. He made $5M last year with Utah. He should be our top free agent priority.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TOM

ALLNET... Kyle Korver would be my primary free agent target, too. He is the deead-eye outside shooter that we need in the Triangle. He made $5M last year with Utah. He should be our top free agent priority.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TOM

ALLNET... Kyle Korver would be my primary free agent target, too. He is the deead-eye outside shooter that we need in the Triangle. He made $5M last year with Utah. He should be our top free agent priority. Posted by: LakerTom | June 18, 2010 at 04:51 PM
*
Sounds good to me.
Mamba24

With Farmar (RFA), Fisher (UFA) and Brown (opt-out likely) all on the market, the Lakers have a decision with Vujacic. He provides a valuable expiring contract for trade purposes, but he's also the only guard under contract for next season other than Kobe. Do they trust him for 18-20 minutes a game as the top guard off the bench, or do they move on?

It was only two points, but I think he made the decision harder with those FTs last night.

Lots of choices in the free agencies, PG is our primary problem. A PG who will fascilitate and bring the ball to the producers in the most efficient manner. We have three SG's unless Shannon opts out which is plain crazy on his if he will do that. The second most important position that needs to be beefed up is the SF, who will replace Artest in the 2nd team. Kyle is a good choice, we need youth, speed and accuracy at the least cost for JB's pocket book.

How many players can say they iced two games in the Finals with closing free throws? And the Celtics at that!

He has some great memories to keep and cherish for years to come.

I think he has a nice role on this team next year, especially if we lose Brown to FA.

Sasha redeemed himself in these playoffs and also at the end of the season before the injury. The machine was on his way back when it was temporarily shut down by the injury. He did a better job than Walton, than Farmar (IMO), than Fisher as his replacement in defending RA. It will be Sasha's last year contract. Unless there is a good trade out there, I think Sasha justified his job with the Lakers for one more year. Supposing Clippers give Eric Gordon/Blake for Vujacic/Walton or anything with that kind of improvement with other teams, would the Lakers not improve its lineup?

Here is another good prospect for PG with the help Pau Gasol and Coach Rambis. Read the links below:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/basketball/nba/06/18/rights.held/#ixzz0rEtDRU9p

LA is playing Boston tonight on TV. Its tied at 3-3 in the 4th.

Thanks for your contribution, Sasha. Those two free throws were clutch. And to do it coming from off the bench basically cold was, well, like a cold-hearted dagger into the guts of the hated Celtics.

A job well done!

Sacha did great on D.
We should keep him.
The crap, we should keep everyone.
I know, the next day after a sweet championship is the worst day to talk about trades, we always want to keep them all...

I'm very happy for Sasha. He was mishandled by PJ for much of the season, and I'm glad Sasha kept his mouth shut. Those two free-throws were incredibly clutch -- legendary.


I'm so happy for Sasha! I hope he has a tremendous year next year and resigns with the Lakers! He's still very young and has a very bright future! The Lakers have absorbed his maturation mistakes, it's now time we benefit from his maturity.


Nothing but the best wishes!


Congratulations, Sasha!!!

clutch free throw shooting, coming off the bench cold! not once, but twice in the series. last nights free throws, nothing but net, barely a ripple. enjoy your summer sasha and enjoy wimbledon with maria. see you in october1

All Mitch has to do is approach any top free agent guard with a chance to become a champion with Lakers,no problem signed mid level. Laker Tom, Kover would be a great addition.

Last night was amazing!

I watched the game in Flagstaff, Arizona.

It was me, two other Lakers fans, and about 30 Celtics fans/Laker Haters.

At the end I was shouting down all of them defiantly.

Just wonderful.

I'll be back home in L.A. tomorrow morning.

It's parade time, baby!

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

MM,

Please keep us posted any insider info about Phil coming back for next year

Ever since we had the automatic posting, I never read MM mixing with us except in producing multiple threads. I think he became a blog star too and forgot the midgets that brought him there. j/k

Anyway, I want to know M/M what is the estimated revenue on JB's coffers specifically for holding Games 6 & 7. We want to know the financials of these games not only the actors themselves.

last night was so sweet! i'm sure everyone knows where they were when boston put a hurting on L.A. 131 - 92, in 2008. i was in Lake Tahoe and it ruined my trip. not even winning at the tables could console my spirits. anytime we beat boston in the nba finals is PURE BLISS! let's go for phil's 4th 3peat next year. Kobe and 'drew get healthy. pau take the summer OFF. everyone else enjoy this title AGAIN! especially you RON-RON!

Jon K,

While you were in the Desert, us in the South land had to ENDURE not only the Celtics but also the FREAKIN commercials of the Clippers who were once again trying to steal some thunder from the Lakers playoff series.

"Rise Clipper Nation. Oh have you forgotten about this? Blake Griffen doesn't". And showing us clips of him training and preseason games. I mean seriously the second time they showed us that BS and after trying to make money off us last year by showing off their number one pick and already declaring him the MVP of the league back then.

Even more reason to hate the Clippers because they wanted to make money off the Lakers. Some organization they are.

Clippers suck today...Clippers suck tomorrow...Clippers suck forever!

Hey Jon K, Glad you liked our little town. Which bar were you visiting?

Fatty - Living in Flagstaff next to Butler

Last night I bid farewell to the Celtics team, now read their blog on who is projected to be out next season. Would u believe including Danny Ainge? It must really be hurting to lose The Finals after a commanding lead of 3-2 in the series that needed only one win to Championship and after leading for three quarters until hell broke down..... I have to commend the Celtic organization for putting up a good fight and its loyal fans as worthy adversaries. There will be a next time maybe next year or to the next two decades like what happened in 1987. Next season, no more Thibodieu, maybe Doc Rivers, the two Allens, maybe Sheed.

http://www.celticsblog.com/

hey fatty, i love flag....i had a second home there from 1999-2004. i eventually sold the property because i coaching my daughters softball and basketball teams in the valley. coaching took up so much of my time, never got a chance to use the place. i love la bellavia on beaver street for breakfast, best in town. charley's restaurant at the rutherford hotel is good fort eats. the snow was great at the snowbowl this year, best ever since i've been in az, which is approaching 21 years. Zonie fans love the L.A. Lakers! at least some of us! ha ha

Hey neighbor Lakeshowinphx!

We like those places as well.

This year we plan to become official snowbirds to the valley.

Winter in Phoenix
Summer in Flagstaff

Hopefully the best of both worlds.

All is well.

The universe is in harmony.

Back to back payback. The first (and second recipient) of the renamed Russell MVP award is a Laker. PJackson has 11 coaching rings to Russell's 11. Sasha's FT is payback to RAllen's 08 drive. Artest scared the entire Boston team.

I also think Korver could help us. Was wondering if we would think of starting Farmar with Fisher as back up?

Good job, Sasha.

Sasha did an amazing job. He was ice cold when he stepped on the court, yet he drained two key free throws so beautifully.

And kudos to Phil for trusting Sasha in the closing seconds of this winner-take-all game.

Here is another good prospect for PG with the help Pau Gasol and Coach Rambis. Read the links below:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/basketball/nba/06/18/rights.held/#ixzz0rEtDRU9p

Posted by: Edwin Gueco | June 18, 2010 at 05:18 PM

Ricky Rubio is an incredible player, needs to improve his shot
but I surely would, and fisher could teach him the secrets of his position.

Ricky Rubio is a leader although very young their defense is very good
and easily apportioned 10 assists per game.

I can assure that if Bynum knew the game of Ricky, he offer 2 million of his salary to Ricky play with the lakers.
It's perfect for this team repeat, perfect.

THE OFFSEASON AGENDA !!!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It seems as if each offseason brings its own set of critical issues to be resolved. Last summer, all the critical issues fell into place perfectly for the Lakers - Phil Jackson returned, Lamar Odom re-signed, and Ron Artest took over for Trevor Ariza. With the opportunity to three-peat next year hanging in the balance, here is my take on the critical issues that the Lakers need to resolve this summer:
~
(1) WILL PHIL JACKSON RETURN AS COACH? YES! Other than an unknown health issue, there is no way that Phil Jackson is going to be able to resist the opportunity to coach his 4th three-peat. The symmetry is irresistible –12 championships in 2 sets of three-peats each from MJ and Kobe. That would be the ideal way for Phil to end the greatest coaching career in the history of the NBA.
~
(2) WILL DEREK FISHER BE RE-SIGNED? YES! Without a doubt, Derek showed that he is one of the greatest clutch playoff shooters in the history of the NBA. He won’t be paid as much, play as many minutes, or maybe even start, but he will definitely get a chance with Kobe to win 2 three-peats. Ideally, I would like to see Fish agree to retire and join the coaching staff after next year.
~
(3) WILL FARMAR GET A QUALIFYING OFFER? YES! The Lakers have until June 30 to make a qualifying offer of $2.8M to Jordan, a move that would make him a restricted free agent and allow the Lakers to match any free agent offer he makes. Unless some team overpays, I think the Lakers have a good shot at keeping Farmar. I don’t see a free agent point guard out there that is a better option.
~
(4) WILL THE LAKERS TRADE ANDREW BYNUM? Despite the frustration of 3 years of reduced play especially in the playoffs, there is no way that the Lakers have given up on Andrew Bynum or intend to trade him for another big man or point guard. Drew has pretty much shown that he has a great heart to go along with his great talent. If he stays healthy, the Lakers are truly unbeatable.
~
(5) WILL THE LAKERS USE THEIR MLE? YES! With Fisher and Farmar returning and Sasha hopefully rebounding, the Lakers next biggest need has to be a great 3-point shooter, which is exactly what Kyle Korver is. I would like to see Jerry Buss step up to the plate and look to replace Amo’s expiring contract by signing Korver to give them the 3-point shooter off the bench to open the floor.
~
(6 WILL SHANNON BROWN OPT OUT? YES! I think Shannon believes he will get bigger offers from other teams than the $2.2M player option he will likely decline to exercise. In a way, Shannon is not a good fit for the Triangle Offense and has not shown to be the defensive stopper the Lakers had once hoped for. The times when Shannon and Ron Artest were on the floor together were unreal.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TOM

Our free agency: I figure D.J. will be invited back but will probably go somewhere else to get some minutes. Powell will get another one-year deal. Fish will definitely come back and I would bet that he's still the starter. I don't think Shannon will opt out. The biggest question mark is Farmar. I think he'll be back. Morrison and his contract are gone, gone, gone. We'll probably have 3 slots to fill. I'm really hoping we draft a couple projects for the future. And, we'll probably use the mid-level money... Mike Miller as a combo guard maybe?

I would like to see the Lakers sign Matt Barnes in the offseason, he shoots well from the outside, would be a nice defender off the bench, and be another guy that Kobe got into it with before that would now be his teammate. And if we need PG help, why not Steve Blake? He is a smart player that never turns the ball over, and doesn't care if he starts or comes off the bench.

I would like to see the Lakers sign Matt Barnes in the offseason, he shoots well from the outside, would be a nice defender off the bench, and be another guy that Kobe got into it with before that would now be his teammate. And if we need PG help, why not Steve Blake? He is a smart player that never turns the ball over, and doesn't care if he starts or comes off the bench.

Sasha has no fear.

Sometimes Sasha has no brain.

But outside of Fisher, Sasha will have no problem shooting during crunch time (see Lamar's hesitation on an open 3 in the 4th qtr.). Or course Sasha doesn't have a problem shooting during an air raid or a tornado.

Kobe recognizes that and so does Phil. That's why he was on the court at .11 last night.

He needs to get his minutes and his impact could be similar to Tony Kukoc.

Good job Sasha! The Machine sealed the deal...

WITHOUT A DOUBT, THE REF'S HANDED THE LAKERS THE SERIES. OK YOU REAL FANS---TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE CALLS, EVEN SOME OF THE ANNOUNCERS COULDN'T BELIEVE THE REF'S CALLS AGAINST BOSTON.

I GUESS THEY WANTED TO SEE THE LAKERS TAKE IT TO GET EVEN, BUT IN MY MIND LAKERS YOU STOLE IT, AND NOT BY OUT PLAYING THE CELTICS, IT WAS BY THE REF'S HANDING YOU THE WIN!

DEE

^^Cry me a river, I'll take that EVERY TIME!

DAVID STERN LOVES US!! JOIN US OR LOSE!! YOU CAN'T BEAT LA....YOU SAID IT, WE OWN THIS LEAGUE!!!!!!

Like everyone else, I am so happy for Sasha to hit those clutch FT's . I thought it was a smart play by PJ and I had no doubt that he would ice it.
I thought Machine played well in the finals and should've gotten more minutes. Our outside shooting was hurting badly and he had it going. Also his D on R Allen was good.
The Machine has been off-aim for 2 seasons (we really missed his shooting) and it's great to see it's resurgence in these Finals.

Both he and Bynum matured a lot in the series. Finally recognizing their roles (and strengths) and happily did what it took to help the team.

I really hope Sasha plays a bigger role next season. He can be so valuable to our 3Peat quest.

Don't hate, congratulate. He is MACHINE.


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