Q-and-A with Sasha Vujacic

Backup guard Sasha Vujacic talked today about a possible shift from shooting guard to point guard after the first few days of training camp. He also spoke about bouncing back from a subpar 2008-09 season, the disappointment of his release from the Slovenian national team during the summer and a minor knee injury that has healed. Read on.

Of moving to the point, he said: “Phil (Jackson) and the coaching staff, basically they have been teaching me to play both positions. I needed some time to put myself into that lead guard position. Now that I’m into my sixth year in the NBA, I feel comfortable. Just got to keep the tempo up or down, depending on who’s on the floor. Phil is the guy who is orchestrating everything. We have to take advantage of where the holes are (in the defense). … I played point guard in Europe. I played my second year (with the Lakers) as point guard, but was more comfortable as shooting guard.”

On playing poorly last season: “Every fan of the Lakers wasn’t happy how I played last year. No excuses, but my injury (a sprained ankle) the first day of training camp put me back. I was trying to find my game. Regular season I kind of found it, but I never regained it (fully). It’s a new year, a fresh start. I’ve got to start fresh. It’s going to be a fresh year. We’ve got to defend our title, but from a personal point of view, I’ve got to bring “The Machine” back because that’s why I’m here.”

On winning the NBA title despite his struggles in the Finals: “I’m not one of those guys, if I play bad and we’re winning, I’m not going to bring the team down. You’ve just got to adapt to the team’s success. Fortunately, the team didn’t need me as much in the Finals. I could contribute, but yeah, there’s disappointment when you know what you need to do and you know how to do it, but you just don’t do it. Obviously, it’s going to be a disappointment. The more I was working on it, the more I was spending time in the gym, the more it was frustrating, and then coaches some of the teammates and Phil, they said, ‘You’re trying too much, you’re thinking too much.’ They were on me. I’m stubborn, and stubborn is what brought me here. It was a good summer, a good experience to be more open and to accept when I’m wrong. I was probably overdoing it last year, much more than I would do ever again.”

On taking a break from the gym: “I did. I needed that (break). I had an interesting summer. I went back home. I was supposed to play for the national team, and then all the circumstances happened. Everything happened for a reason. I’m kind of happy I didn’t play and everything turned out the way it did. I could have my mind set for the Lakers’ season, because that’s what I live for and what everybody expects me to do my best. I just want to play up to my potential, nothing less and nothing more.”

On the Bench Mob’s attempts to bounce back from last season’s woes: “It should be (a rebound year for the Bench Mob). We have a very good team, one that’s incredible. The Bench Mob, you know, winning the championship, it’s not about only one or two players on the bench. It’s about five or seven of us. We’ve got to realize only if we play together can we win. The Bench Mob is ready to do their thing this year. We are old enough and mature enough to do that.”

On his summer activities: “I was here after the parade, then I took a seven- to 10-day vacation. I went to my friend’s place on the Caribbean side of Mexico. I just went there and re-charged the batteries. Then I came back to L.A., and after a few days I went home to Slovenia. I was there almost one-and-a-half months. Meanwhile, I went to China for the shoe company. When I came back to Slovenia, it turned out that nothing changed from the last time I played for them seven years ago. So, after all the disappointment or whatever, I came back here and all my focus that was supposed to be for the national team is for the Lakers. It was good and bad. That injury kind of put me back, but that’s where my life is, that’s where I want to win another championship. I want to play the way I played two years ago, or even better. I know I can do better. So it’s good.”

Was getting cut and suffering the knee injury a blessing in disguise? “Probably. Who knows what would have happened if I had gone there (to the European Championships) and played through the injury and then been here now watching training camp? Thank God I didn’t do that. Thank God we have a training staff here that was able to help me. I’m glad I’m here now working out with my teammates.”

On returning to Slovenia: “Day 1 of the preparation, I was there 100 percent with the national team. Once I wasn’t with them anymore, then I was able to see my uncle, my grandparents, basically everybody I hadn’t seen in a long time. Friends I hadn’t seen since I was 6 or 7 years old. They were happy for me. It was amazing. It was great. It was a nine-hour difference, but they watched every game (in the NBA Finals).”

On playing for Slovenia: “I haven’t played for them for a long time. They had assured me that some things had changed, but once I got there, once I saw that basically nothing changed, I was sad that I couldn’t help and do that for Slovenia. Life goes on. It wasn’t meant to be. It’s behind me. My only focus now is on the Lakers and how well I can do. Just something that I thought had changed, but nothing changed.”

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