Lakers’ Sasha Vujacic could be out of the loop
Sasha Vujacic stayed after practice Thursday, lofting dozens of outside shots before heading to the free-throw line for some extra work there.
He was the odd man out of the Lakers’ guard rotation in the season opener Tuesday, failing to enter the game while reserves Shannon Brown and Steve Blake combined for 26 points and clutch fourth-quarter play against Houston.
Was it a one-game omission or a sign of things to come this season? Vujacic, 26, is in the final year of a contract that pays him $5.5 million this season.
“It’s real tough to play five guards,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Thursday. “We know that. He knows that. All our guards know it.
“I was thinking about putting Sasha in [against Houston] and Shannon got a hot hand. You ride the hot hand. Even a dumb person would know that one, right?”
Vujacic has had a personally gratifying month, getting engaged to tennis star Maria Sharapova, perhaps why he said he had no hard feelings toward sitting on the bench for the opener.
“Shannon played great and Steve played great,” Vujacic said. “We won the game, that’s what matters, but it’s just the beginning, so we’ll see.”
Phoenix not rising
The Phoenix Suns will have a different look when they play host to the Lakers on Friday, having lost Amare Stoudemire to free agency and speedy guard Leandro Barbosa in a trade.
With Steve Nash now 36, most NBA followers even wonder if the Suns are still playoff material after taking the Lakers to six games in last season’s Western Conference finals.
The Lakers, predictably, continued to treat the Suns with respect.
“They still have a great point guard that runs the show, great shooters,” Pau Gasol said. “It’s still a tough matchup, and it’s going to be a tough matchup on the road.”
The Lakers have already seen the effects of a better bench than last season, with Blake making the go-ahead shot against Houston, but Jackson doesn’t necessarily want the reserves to play a large part in late-game heroics.
“Shannon and Steve bailed us out [Tuesday] night, but we’re going to need more than just those two,” he said, putting more on the shoulders of the starters. “We’re going to need Lamar [Odom] and Pau too.”
Gasol had a solid game everywhere but shooting accuracy against Houston, making 11 of 23 attempts (48%), a little low for him. He had 29 points and 11 rebounds.
Odom had 14 points and 10 rebounds, but Jackson didn’t like his four turnovers.
Jackson saved an extra compliment for Blake.
“He held [Aaron] Brooks to six points the second half, which was a good deal for us,” he said.
Brooks blistered the Lakers for 18 points in the first half.
The Magic touch
Since Magic Johnson announced last week he had sold his minority stake in the Lakers, his agent said the Hall of Famer had been contracted about his interest in ownership opportunities in several sports franchises.
Johnson said last week he had spoken with the Golden State Warriors and would speak with the Detroit Pistons in the future. Both teams are in the final stages of being sold to new ownership groups.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.