Once you taste the NBA finals, your perception of the league changes. So says Sasha Vujacic, a 6'7" guard from Slovenia, who recently signed a three-year, $15-million contract to continue his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. The year, he says, is no longer divided into the offseason, training camp, the regular season and the playoffs. It becomes much simpler.
"You are either in the NBA finals, or on your way to the NBA Finals."
Vujacic is coming off a break-out season averaging 8.8 points per game behind a strong 43% from the three-point line. Usually coming in as a replacement for Kobe Bryant, it was no surprise that it was Bryant who kept in touch with Vujacic through the summer, discussing Vujacic's contract negotiations and the Lakers in general.
"They say when you sign a contract you can take it easy. But that is not at all how I feel. Hardest work should be in the offseason. Basketball is not just my job, it's my passion. So it is not hard to dedicate summers to basketball. I had done it since I came to the league."
Behind every successful basketball player there is usually a great family, providing guidance in a dynamic world that can give a lot, but that also requires a lot. Vujacic's family has lived here in States since his NBA career started four years ago, because of -- among other things -- some good advice from New Orleans Hornets' forward Peja Stojakovic, one of the best international players of the last decade.