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Lakers' Vujacic does a reverse pivot

A day after threatening to play in Europe, guard agrees to stay in L.A. for three years, $15 million.

July 26, 2008|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

One day after threatening to bolt the Lakers to play for a team in Russia unless he received a multiyear deal for $5 million a season, reserve guard Sasha Vujacic got his wish, reaching a verbal agreement on a three-year, $15-million deal.

"Sasha will stay with the Lakers," said his agent, Rob Pelinka, "and play a pivotal role in hopefully bringing a title to the team next season."

Vujacic, a restricted free agent who made $1.76 million last season, was given a qualifying offer of $2.6 million by the Lakers before the start of the free-agency period to retain his rights. He did not sign an offer sheet with another team.

Pelinka and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak had been in negotiations for several weeks. According to an NBA source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Lakers had already made an offer close to the amount Vujacic had been seeking before Thursday's revelation that the four-year NBA veteran was looking overseas.

Vujacic, 24, had been hoping for a contract in the four- to six-year range.

"We are happy to have Sasha back," Kupchak said of Vujacic, who is coming off his best season. "He made great progress this year. I attribute a lot of that to his work ethic. We hope he will continue to work hard to develop his game and become an even better and more consistent player."

In a season when the Lakers depended heavily on their bench to provide a spark, maintain momentum or reinvigorate the team when the starters struggled, nobody was better at providing instant offense.

Vujacic averaged 8.8 points in 17.2 minutes during the regular season and shot 45.4% from the field, including 43.7% from three-point range. In the playoffs, he averaged 21.7 minutes, 8.1 points and shot 39.9%, including 39.2% from beyond the three-point arc.

Retaining Vujacic became even more important for the Lakers after they lost reserve forward Ronny Turiaf to Golden State. Turiaf signed a four-year, $17-million deal with the Warriors, which the Lakers declined to match.


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