February 11, 2011
As a Laker, Sasha Vujacic(notes) inspired hatred usually reserved for the best players on archrivals. But Sasha held his own special genius -- with his perpetual air of confidence and long hair, he was like a European version of a villain in an '80s skiing movie.
However, if you listen to Sasha (now a member of the New Jersey Nets), we've had him all wrong. The man just wants to win, and a revelation of his true talents would actually place him among the best players in the league. From Colin Stephenson in The Newark Star-Ledger:
"I know I can score 20 or 30 points anytime I want," Vujacic said. "But I'm not that kind of a guy. I want to win. I want to play the right way. Some games I'm going to get 10 shots, some games 15 shots; sometimes, especially coming off the bench, you're going to feel cold, and you need time to get in the rhythm. But right now, what I care the most is for us to become a better team. And we are really capable of doing that."
As noted by Trey Kerby at The Basketball Jones, Sasha has never scored 30 points in a game and went 33 months between scoring 20 points, so "anytime I want" is apparently an exceedingly rare occasion. You see, Sasha is like a monk, withholding selfish pleasures for the greater glory, which in this case is the holy win. That's why Sasha never did anything to make the Lakers lose, like, say, making only 39 percent of his shots in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Celtics.
Away from the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles, Vujacic is now trying to create a role for himself in New Jersey and beyond as a veteran leader who knows what it takes to get deep into the playoffs, and I applaud him for it. But there's a better way to do this that doesn't involve massively exaggerating one's skills. All Sasha has to do is perform regularly like he did on Wednesday, when he put in a career-high 25 points to pull off a surprising win against the Hornets. Start talking like this, though, and people will wonder why you just didn't go for 30 points. Is it because you'd need 30 shots to do it?
NBA players can't succeed without ridiculous self-confidence, but there's a point at which they shouldn't tell the press exactly how highly they think of themselves. Clearly, Sasha went far beyond that point with these comments.