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Friday, January 7, 2011

Sasha the Slovenian Sensation

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The Slovenian Sensation, otherwise known as Sasha Vujacic, has brought unbridled enthusiasm and clutch shooting to the Garden State. A former 27th pick in the 2004 NBA draft, Vujacic provided instant offense during his five plus seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.

A landmark moment in Vujacic’s career came with 11 seconds remaining in game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals. The Slovenian hit two cold-blooded free throws extending the Lakers’ lead to four points over the Celtics. The Lakers would hold on for a dramatic 83-79 triumph, hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy for the second consecutive year. Vujacic was heralded for his clutch performance in a decisive game seven on the grandest stage in the NBA. As if his year couldn’t get any better, this past October Vujacic engaged to marry Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova.

In December, instead of embarking on a quest for a three peat with Los Angeles, Sasha was traded to the New Jersey Nets, a team looking to improve upon a league worst record 12-70 from just a season ago. Sasha has relished an increased role with the Nets imparting an upbeat and positive attitude on a New Jersey squad in desperate need of inspiration and most importantly wins.
In nine games with the new-look Nets, Vujacic is averaging 11.4 points, 1.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting a blistering 41.5 percent from beyond the arc. On New Year’s Day against Minnesota, Sasha tied his career high of 22 points while dishing out four helpers. Vujacic’s biggest splash as a Net came during Wednesday night’s thrilling 96-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

With 11 seconds remaining and the game knotted at 94, Devin Harris lofted an alley-oop intended for Brook Lopez, but the ball was batted away into the hands of Sasha Vujacic whose lay-up caught nothing but nylon. An exuberant Vujacic revved up the Newark faithful, embracing teammates as his game-winner halted the Nets five game skid and in turn ended Chicago’s five game winning streak.

Vujacic’s contribution goes beyond his silky smooth jumper or his charming personality; his intangible assets have boosted the Nets’ morale. Sasha’s feisty competitiveness and unwavering confidence appear to be infectious in teammates. New Jersey is reaping the rewards of unloading a loafing Terrence Williams in exchange for the energetic and bubbly Vujacic. Sasha seems be right at home in Jersey as his recent late game heroics helped the Nets get off the snide. The Nets may consider adding Vujacic to pre-game pageantry and half-time entertainment as his jubilance rallies the home crowd bringing everyone to their feet. Vujacic’s two rings are second fiddle to future-wife Maria Sharapova, who has three major tennis titles to her name. I guess we know the real bread-winner in that marriage!
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