The end of any season, no matter how premature, requires reflection. To that end, Silver Screen and Roll's team of scribes will spend time over the coming weeks reviewing the contributions of every member of the 2010-2011 Los Angeles Lakers. Today's participant: forgotten man Sasha Vujacic.
It's almost difficult to remember that Sasha "The Broken Machine" Vujacic even began his season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. After all, aside from two very important free throws which iced some game last season, Sasha's last meaningful contribution came before this country even knew what "Change we can believe in" meant. It's been years since we were able to have any real, significant, positive memories with Vujacic at the center.
Should Sasha even be given a report card? By the season's 7th week, his bags were already packed for New Jersey, having fallen so far that the Lakers were willing to give up a 1st round draft pick just to be rid of his overgrown salary. It would be easy to let Sasha's minuscule contribution to this year's team go unnoticed, to ignore the few minutes he played, to pass over what exactly Sasha brought to the table. After all, he was shipped out for the NBA equivalent of a half a pack of year-old twinkies, and he was hardly missed upon his departure. So why bother?
Because he was missed, terribly. Not the actual player, but the idea of him. Sasha gets a report card, (spoiler alert) a massively failing one, because of how desperately the Lakers needed someone to fill the exact role that was supposed to be his this season.
Sasha was supposed to be this team's shooter. Check that, he was supposed to be last year's shooter... or maybe the year before that. Many moons ago, when Mitch Kupchak decided to reward Sasha's one good season with a decent size contract, it was decided. Sasha is the guy we go to when we need someone to drain a three point shot. He'll be the one who spaces the floor, who can run off screens and fire up a quick three with little space. That will be what Sasha does.
You don't need me to tell you that Sasha never delivered. Not on that contract, not on the promise he showed in that one fateful season. Since 2009, Sasha has been consistently abysmal. That's why he was deemed so expendable this season, despite the fact that his "role" was one the Lakers were so desperately in need of. That's why few in Laker Nation shed a tear at his departure, even as the rest of the team couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Sasha was a shooter who couldn't shoot, a pest who annoyed only his own bosses. He simply wasn't capable of being the player the Lakers needed him to be.
Still, as the Lakers flamed out of the playoffs in a dreadful four game sweep, one couldn't help but wonder if things might have been different had Sasha Vujacic been there. Not this year's Sasha, mind you. This year's Sasha would have fit right into the proceedings. I'm talking about good Sasha, the one who helped the Lakers go from also rans to championship contenders in one quick season. Every time Shannon Brown over-dribbled, every time Derek Fisher bricked a three pointer, every time Steve Blake refused to even shoot, somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking to myself, "Man I wish we had The Machine."
But we didn't have him. Not because Sasha Vujacic was traded, but because the Sasha who was worthy of that nickname took his leave of us long ago. Who would have thought the season in which the shell of The Machine left us for good would be the season in which we would miss him the most.
Final grade, both for his actual performance and for how much the Lakers needed what he was supposed to provide: F