Lakers' Sasha Vujacic Has Full Backing Again
Los Angeles Times | Sports | Pro Basketball

The reserve guard has returned to full strength after missing two games because of back spasms. If a little good-natured name calling comes with the territory, he can take it.

By Broderick Turner
January 25, 2009

They called him names -- with affection, of course.

They questioned his toughness -- with affection, of course.

Sasha Vujacic took it all in stride.

Back spasms took him out for two games, so Vujacic knew the name-calling was coming.

In many ways, he's used to it. He earned the nickname "The Machine," and has heard many times this season that the machine has been broken.

"They called me names, but I'm not going to put them out there," Vujacic said, smiling. "But it was very frustrating sitting at home and watching the game. Unfortunately I didn't get to play against San Antonio."

He missed back-to-back games Jan. 13-14 at Houston (a Lakers win) and San Antonio (a one-point loss).

When Derek Fisher tweaked his hamstring at San Antonio, not having Vujacic to play the backup point-guard role pushed the Lakers to the limit.

The team already was without Jordan Farmar (surgery on left knee) and was counting on Vujacic to handle the duties in the backcourt.

But during a Jan. 11 game against the Miami Heat, Vujacic's back stiffened, causing him pain.

"I couldn't move," Vujacic said. "The next day . . . I woke up and I couldn't get out of bed. I was struggling. Then I came [to the practice facility] and tried to get treatment. I knew then they were going to call me names."

Vujacic put his faith in the Lakers' training staff. He said his work with Alex McKechnie, the Lakers' athletic performance coordinator, has paid off. The back pain has subsided.

"I'm good, I'm feeling really good," Vujacic said. "Our training staff -- especially working with Alex -- has helped me keep it straight and I'm working on making it stronger."

Vujacic started slowly in his first game back. He played 13 minutes against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 16 but didn't score, missing all three of his field-goal attempts, two of which two were three-point shots.

On Monday he played 21 minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers and was four for seven from the field, four for five from three-point range. He scored 14 points.

Against the Clippers on Wednesday, Vujacic played 23 minutes, but was just one for seven from the field, one for five from three-point range. He scored three points.

The next night he played 25 minutes against the Washington Wizards and was four for seven from the field, two for five on three-point shots. He had 13 points.

Slowly, Vujacic said, he is getting his rhythm back, something he hopes to keep when the Lakers play host to the Spurs on Sunday at Staples Center.

"As long as I get involved in the ballgame early and I kind of get the feel for the game, early in the game, I feel really good," Vujacic said. "I feel really comfortable."

broderick.turner@latimes.com


 

“I describe Alex McKechnie to people all the time, and the first thing I say is, ”He’s a genius at what he does.”

“I was basically retired because of injuries. Thanks to Alex, I am back to 100%”

“The Core System is the best rehab and strengthening program out there by far.”

“You really feel like you’ve worked your whole body.”
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