Lakers' Vujacic nears return

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers, mired in a season-long three-game losing streak, have help on the way in the form of Sasha Vujacic.

The sixth year reserve guard practiced with the team Monday and is primed to return from a right shoulder injury suffered against Boston on Feb. 18 that caused him to miss the Lakers' last eight games.

"I'm ready. It was a good practice so we'll see what PJ [Lakers coach Phil Jackson] says," Vujacic said.

Vujacic wore a hard pad over his shoulder with a soft sleeve to hold it in place. He did not accompany the team to Miami, Charlotte and Orlando, opting to stay back in Los Angeles to work out.

"[While] they were on the road I was working really hard twice a day just to try to get back," Vujacic said. "Mentally I'm ready and I want to play. I want to help the team."

Vujacic was playing his best basketball of the season before the injury occurred, upping his season averages of 2.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 0.6 assists to 4.4, 2.0 and 1.8 in the five games Kobe Bryant sat out with a left ankle and tendon injury.

"We basically had a practice to get Sasha going today and to have him get a little bit of a run and get back and feel it," Jackson said. "He looks OK. His shot's a little short still and he's still working through that."

But whatever progress Vujacic still needs to make will happen on the court in games rather than just in practice.

"I think he's ready to play, I really do," Jackson said. "I think physically, everything but the shoulder is all set. His mind, his body, his legs are ready."

Vujacic will be a game-time decision when the Lakers host the Raptors on Tuesday night.

Even with Vujacic back, the Lakers roster is still missing a player. Luke Walton, who has played just 24 games this season because of a pinched nerve in his back, said he is eyeing a return to the lineup before the end of the regular season on April 14, in time for the playoffs.

"[A comeback is] definitely going to be attempted," Walton said. "I feel really good again right now with these last couple weeks off. Within the last week or so we've stepped up the workout, what we've been doing in the weight room, getting on the court with [Lakers trainer] Alex [McKechnie] and I got on the treadmill for the first time today, so hopefully in the next three weeks we're gradually going to push it up higher and higher and be ready to go by the first of April, sometime around then."

Dave McMenamin covers the NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com.