The Knicks signed Sasha Vujucic to a one year deal. That it’s been five years since Sasha Vujacic did anything meaningful in a NBA game doesn’t seem to bother Phil Jackson nor is he concerned with how much time has passed since June of 2010.
Sasha Vujacic played 52 minutes in the seven game series of the 2010 NBA Finals. But it was the last eleven seconds of game 7 that made Sasha Vujacic a.k.a. The Machine the answer to a trivia question.
Who had the ball in the last 11 seconds? Who saved Phil Jackson’s ass?
In 2010, Sasha Vujacic’s teammate, the one who spoke to him in Italian, was Kobe Bryant. His other teammate was Derek Fisher and his coach was Phil Jackson. Therefore no one paid much attention to what Vujacic did in the NBA Finals. Before game 7, Vujacic has scored a total of 19 points. And then in game 7 against the Boston Celtics, it was Sasha Vujacic’s moment.
The Lakers were up by two points with thirteen seconds left. Lamar Odom inbounded the ball to Vujacic. The 88% free throw shooter who had only played five minutes was instantly fouled. The Machine, as he liked to call himself, went to the line. He raised his shoulders, made the first free throw, exhaled, stepped back, dribbled and made the second free throw to give the Lakers a four point lead with 11 seconds left. Championship done.
There were the normal parties and ecstasy and parades and excitement and then just like that Sasha Vujacic, a 25 year old from Slovenia, a three point shooter who was fluent in Italian and English and who was engaged to Maria Sharapova was traded and then forgotten.
He played for the New Jersey Nets the next season then went to Europe. He had a 10-day contract with the Clippers last year then played in Italy, Spain and Turkey. The two time NBA champion has taken on the lifestyle of a journeyman basketball player, cut here, signed there, that is until his old boss and his old teammate came calling.
Sasha Vujacic was the son of a Serbian basketball coach. His mother, a professional volleyball player, became pregnant with Sasha and cut her career short. Vujacic’s professional career began when he was 17, in Italy. The Lakers drafted Vujacic 27th three years later and his greatest moment in his six years with the team were those two clutch free throws that delivered Los Angeles their 16th championship.
Absent from the NBA for five years, give or take, Vujacic and the Knicks have entered an agreement for one year, in need of spacing. The Knicks trust Vujacic to knock down shots only because Derek Fisher was his once upon a time teammate and Jackson was his former coach. They experienced Vujacic first hand, constantly running his fingers through his hair during breaks of a game, making three point shots and drilling free throws.
But it’s been five years since his Lakers lore though it must be said that in Europe he continued to be The Machine. He drained 44% of his three point shots, averaging 15 points a game. Still it feels like the Knicks and Jackson are reaching for something they used to know. Perhaps, like all things, Sasha Vujacic has changed.
Who is Sasha Vujacic now? The Knicks hope it is the shooter they remember and not another aged dead weight player who can only toss up bricks and defer to Carmelo Anthony.
photo via nbadestiny.com