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LAKERS FYI

Vujacic's not playing, so he may be paying

April 01, 2010|Broderick Turner

ATLANTA — Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and his assistants have issues with Sasha Vujacic and as a result, the 6-foot-7 guard has been banished to the bench.

Vujacic and assistant Brian Shaw had a face-to-face encounter on the bench during the Oklahoma City game last Friday night after Vujacic said he didn't want assistants yelling at him. It began when assistant Jim Cleamons tried to give Vujacic instructions during the game.

Jackson had a 10-minute talk with Vujacic in Houston on Saturday, but Jackson still wasn't happy with Vujacic because he hadn't apologized to Shaw or Cleamons.

"Sasha had a little run-in with our coaches in a game in Oklahoma and he hasn't atoned himself yet for that error," Jackson said Wednesday night. "He knows how to get himself out of it. When he does, he'll be back in good graces."

When asked how Vujacic can do that, Jackson pointed back to the beginning of the season.

"There was a promise he made to us before the season that he hasn't fulfilled," Jackson said.

Vujacic said before the season that if he talked back to the coaches, he would buy them dinner.

When Vujacic was approached and asked about Jackson's comments, he wasn't contrite. He said it was "nothing unusual" to argue with assistant coaches.

"All season I haven't been getting much playing time," Vujacic said. "It's OK. Coach has his rotation. At least now I know what my role is."

What is that role?

"Well, I'm out of the rotation," Vujacic said. "If they are winning, I'm not playing. If they are losing and the team is down by 20 points, then I get few minutes."

The Lakers lost to the Hawks by 17 points Wednesday. Vujacic didn't play, for the third consecutive game.

Injury update

Luke Walton, who has been out almost two months because of a pinched nerve in his back, said he plans on playing Sunday when the Lakers play the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.

Walton hopes to practice Thursday and Saturday -- he doesn't plan on playing in Friday night's game against Utah at home -- and be ready for the game Sunday.

Jackson said Andrew Bynum, who has been out for six games because of a strained left Achilles' tendon, won't play Friday or Sunday.

The hope is that Bynum, who will get reevaluated either Thursday or Friday in Los Angeles, will be able to play when the Lakers play at Denver on April 8.

Cruise control?

Jackson has pondered whether to rest his players during the stretch run, but hasn't made a decision.

The Lakers have a four-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks for the best record in the Western Conference, a pretty comfortable margin.

The Lakers are five behind Cleveland for the best record in the NBA, but only 11/2 games ahead of Orlando for the second-best record in the league.

"We're basically taking the accelerator off, but we do want to get 60 wins," Jackson said. "That's still a number that these guys want to push for."

The Lakers (54-21) have seven regular-season games left, four against potential playoff opponents Utah, San Antonio, Denver and Portland.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

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