Phil Jackson believes Sasha Vujacic’s knowledge of the triangle offense is a “bonus” for the Knicks.
“Having played for me in L.A., Sasha knows the triangle and can help our off-guards get the hang of playing on top of the floor," the Knicks' team president told Charley Rosen over the summer.
Vujacic said earlier this week that he’s prepared to fill that role in New York.
“Of course, of course. I was always someone that helped players on the court. We have a lot of rookies and a lot of younger players –- I still consider myself young by the way -– so we have a great mix of guys and I’m looking forward to teaching them and giving them help,” Vujacic, 31, said by phone. “I don’t want to be a teacher because we have a coach that will lead us towards something [but] if there’s going to be anything needed for me to show or do I’ll be more than happy to do so.”
The Knicks’ disjointed performance on offense last season led some to conclude that Jackson’s triangle is outdated. Vujacic doesn’t see it that way.
“It's a proven offense. It's an offense that won not only games but championships,” said Vujacic, who won two titles under Jackson in Los Angeles. “.... Obviously you need to have players that can mold into that offense and to follow it and I think that our personal right now is very excited.”
Vujacic has spent time recently working out with some of his new teammates at the Knicks’ training facility. The players go through some of the triangle offense before they scrimmage.
“Everyone is here learning what their roles are and it's exciting when you have everybody on the same page,” he said. “It takes a little bit of time and a little bit of patience but once you get it in your mindset it's one of the most beautiful offenses that you can play in. Maybe not the most beautiful to watch but it’s something that took the Lakers to the top of the mountain.”
The Knicks signed Vujacic to a fully-guaranteed contract over the summer. Jackson told Rosen that he’s looking for Vujacic to be a game-changing shooter off the bench.
“Except for a 10-day contract with the Clippers in 2014, Sasha hasn't played in the NBA for four years, but at age 31 he still has plenty of game,” Jackson said. “He's a classic streak-shooter who, when he's zeroed in, can totally change a game in three minutes. He'll be a significant force for us coming off the bench.”
Vujacic played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2004 to 2011. He spent five of those seasons playing under Jackson and four playing alongside Knicks coach Derek Fisher, who played point guard for the Lakers.
Vujacic has played overseas for much of the past four seasons. His lone NBA stint during that stretch was in 2013-14, when he played 10 minutes over two games for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The veteran shooting guard says he originally went to Europe during the lockout season because he was unsure of when the labor dispute would end. He'd been looking for a chance to return to the NBA and a league source with knowledge of his situation says Vujacic turned down larger offers overseas to sign with the Knicks.
Vujacic says his familiarity with Jackson, Fisher and other members of the organization led to him landing in New York.
“It had a lot to do with it. In life and in basketball, you have to find places where you think it’s the best possible way for you and for the team to go toward something great,” Vujacic said. “Obviously our team, it’s in rebuilding stage and we are steering in the right direction. And having Zen Master, we don’t need to say anything else. He’s someone that’s shown and proved and done [so much] in the past.
“Derek Fisher was my teammate and had that role of the leader and someone that had coaching in him afterwards. So when you see those two great people being in the same seat and on the same page, then you’ve got to be ready and follow. I was more than happy and excited to be a part of the journey.”