Shooting For Sunday

Sasha Vujacic Shooting“I’m very happy right now because there is no substitute for the W’s. Sure, I’m not where I want to be individually, but in order to have team success sometimes you have to forget about yourself and focus on being a good teammate.”
- Sasha Vujacic, after L.A.’s 4-0 start.

Sure, that’s a bit of an athlete cliché type of statement from Vujacic, but when he told me that and about his struggle to get back in rhythm after injuring his ankle early in training camp, he was smiling. Plus, I figured out the reason he’s started the season making just 7-of-22 shots, including 3-of-10 three-pointers: me.

It’s my fault.

Let me explain … After each morning shootaround on game days this season, Vujacic and Pau Gasol go 1-on-1 in three-point shooting. Prior to game No. 1, since I’d been watching the Spaniard hit targets like Steven Seagal (one shot, kill, no matter where on the body), I bet on the Spaniard. He lost. A week later, prior to Wednesday’s drubbing of the Clippers, I noticed that Sasha wasn’t missing anything, and put my support behind the Slovenian. Oops. Pau took that one.

My bad, Sasha.

“It’s completely your fault, and all Lakers fans and everybody should be upset at you and not at me,” explained Vujacic after the Lakers beat the Clippers a second time.

Not wanting to shirk my responsibility, I agreed in principle, but asked Sasha if Lakers fans actually needed to be upset with me? After all, his production will surely increase from 4.8 points in 14 minutes a game, after he put up 8.8 points in 17.6 minutes last season and signed a new contract.

“Yes, we will go that far because I love Lakers Nation, and they understand basketball,” Vujacic answered. “But it’s fine, as long as we’re winning I’m the happiest man around.”

Fair enough.

It’s true that Vujacic just needs to get back into the flow of the offense, and that will come around in games as it has been improving in practice on a daily basis. He categorically hates missing shots even more than the average NBA player, but since he feels comfortable with his lift and his shooting stroke, he knows it’s just a matter of rhythm. It’s being in the right place on the floor, having a feel for where his teammates want to distribute the ball and knowing when to fire and when to pass.

Glad we have that settled. Now, let’s get this on the table: I predict that Sasha will beat Pau in their three-point drill subsequent to Sunday’s shootaround. If Vujacic comes through, he’ll shoot well against the Rockets. It’s simple, really. Right Sasha?

“You know that Pau can’t beat me, right?” Vujacic asked me. “I gave him that game so you’d have to pay for dinner.” Oh. OK. So you’re going to win … Right? “Lakers fans, you heard him,” Vujacic concluded. “If I don’t make any shots on Sunday, you know who to blame: Mike. See you later!”