July 15, 2011
Deron Williams'(notes) intention to play for Turkish club Besiktas next season has been the biggest story of the NBA lockout so far. It was a statement that, as long as owners don't agree to a decent deal, players will have other options. No matter what you think of the decision's bearing on the players' cause, it changes the playing field considerably.
As of now, Williams is an outlier among the league's stars, but he's far from the only player to pass up the NBA for an opportunity in a far-off land. Several role players have already signed contracts, some more notable than others. Today, though, we have been robbed of one of the Internet's favorite punching bags. From the official site of the EuroLeague (via PBT):
Anadolu Efes Istanbul improved its backcourt for the upcoming season by inking shooting guard Sasha Vujacic(notes) to a one-year deal and an option for another, the club announced on Friday. Vujacic (2.00 meters, 27 years old) arrives from New Jersey, where he averaged 11.4 points and 2.3 assists in 56 NBA games last season. He spent more than six seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping the team to win back-to-back NBA titles in 2009 and 2010, as well as reaching the finals in 2008. Vujacic has scored 2,669 points in 476 NBA games since he joined that league in 2004. He has also played for Snaidero Udine in Italy and Polzela in his native Slovenia. Vujacic has also been a member of the Slovenian national team. He helped Slovenia to get the silver medal at the European under-18 Championships in 2002.
That paragraph is a satisfactory rundown of Sasha's basketball bona fides, but it doesn't begin to explain his effect on the NBA over the last few years. With the Lakers in the thick of championship contention over most of the past four seasons, Vujacic has gotten quite a bit of attention (up until his trade to the Nets this year). On top of that, he dates Maria Sharapova, plays with an erratic style that vacillates between "lackadaisical" and "gnat-like," and once wore a special hair band designed for him by the Laker Girls. To put it another way, he is extremely annoying.
Still, he has a strong personality, which means that he also makes the NBA a more interesting league. If he's not around when the lockout ends, we'll all be the lesser for it.
So long, "Machine." You will never leave my heart, or whichever part of the body it is that absorbs annoying things.