Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was adamant that he wanted his team to emulate “the Los Angeles Lakers, not the New York Knicks.”
The Nets already had one former Laker in backup point guard Jordan Farmar on their roster. And with the acquisition of 26-year-old combo guard Sasha Vujacic from Los Angeles in the three-way trade that sent swingman Terrence Williams to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, now they have two.
“I’m really excited,” Vujacic told reporters Thursday morning at the Nets’ practice facility after finishing up a long video session with Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones. “I had seven great years with the Lakers. I had the opportunity to become an NBA champion and learn from some great players and some great coaches in Los Angeles. Now, I’m ready to bring that experience and my game to this franchise and to this team that’s led by owner Mikhail Prokhorov, GM Billy King and head coach Avery Johnson. I’m very excited. It’s a dream come true.”
Really? Going from the defending NBA champion to one of the league’s worst teams?
“Definitely,” said Vujacic, who after falling out of favor with Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, hasn’t played since Dec. 3. “It’s been a while and I want to play basketball. Playing for the Lakers was a great chapter in my life. I had some great memories there. But now that chapter is closed and I’m ready to move on with the future.”
Johnson said that Vujacic would play Thursday night against the Washington Wizards. Granted, he’s yet to become acclimated with the Nets’ offense, something Johnson felt would take him “a couple of weeks” to grasp.
“It’s just all new to him. He comes from a different offense [the triangle],” Johnson said. “It took us a while to get Jordan going. But again, his attitude is good and he’s looking forward to the opportunity. If we stick him out there tonight, there will only be a short package he’s familiar with.”
The Nets (6-19) lost their season-high eighth straight game on Tuesday night, 82-77, to the Philadelphia 76ers, which prompted point guard Devin Harris to call a players only meeting, due in-large part, Harris said, because he felt his team was lacking energy. And energy is something Farmar, who will start Thursday night at shooting guard in place of the injured Anthony Morrow, knows Vujacic can bring to the table.
“He’s going to be scrappy on defense and he’s a feisty European -- that’s how I would describe him,” said Farmar, who played with Vujacic for four seasons in Los Angeles. “He’s going to come in with a lot of energy, and he’s going to be able to stretch the floor for sure and open up lanes for Devin and myself.”
“If you’re on the other team, you hate him, but if he’s on your team, you love him. He’s one of those guys who will do what he can for the team to do better. He’s going to be scrappy and annoying in a good way.”
Said Vujacic, a career .372 percent 3-point shooter: “I play with passion. Some may like it, while others may not. But I want to win every single game and off the court I want to win all the time as well. It’s [going to be] a big challenge for us. But if we put it all together we have a decent team and maybe we can make a run.”