I forked over a pretty penny to get some section 300 seats for Game 1 of the Phoenix Suns-LA Lakers series. Besides the usual hype everyone heard regarding the 2006 and 2007 series where Phoenix took out the Lakers and how this is "payback" even though the Lakers have since won a championship (gotta get hype somehow), there was a little more than "regular news" that Sasha Vujacic would return from an ankle sprain to play in his first playoff game of the year.
Now, I've chastised Sasha before on this blog. I've been chastising him since his rookie year, stopped for a season in 07-08, then went back to it after he signed a big contract and fell off. My question, AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES THIS!?
When Sasha checked in for the first time with 6:30 left in the 2nd quarter, he received a huge ovation. Not as big as the Shannon almost dunk ovation, or the skip pass from Lamar to a Kobe dunk ovation, but it's safe to say the entire crowd was clapping and/or screaming praise. I looked over to my friend and genuinely asked, "Why are people cheering?" The Lakers scored on a Lamar layup from Farmar. At the 5:58 mark, Lamar fouled, stopping play, and Sasha was replaced by Ron Artest (about 30 seconds of playing time).
I guess Phil saw a matchup he didn't like, I believe he was guarding Grant Hill at the time. But he gave him another chance: with 46 seconds left in the 2nd quarter, Sasha replaces DJ Mbenga to finish the half. Amare makes a shot with 24 seconds left, just barely giving them a 2 for 1 opportunity. Kobe breaks Grant Hill's ankle (OK, he slipped), misses the shot, and Josh Powell gets the offensive rebound and dunks it:
Now at the end of that play, you see the Suns are off to a fast break with 4 seconds left. What you DON'T see is Grant Hill raise up for a 3 pointer with .6 seconds left and Sasha fouls him!!!!! He does his routine "grab-my-hair-in-despair-and-close-my-eyes" move as Hill makes 2 of 3 free throws.
I'm guessing Phil Jackson wasn't too happy about that: With 3.6 seconds left in the 14 point lead 3rd quarter, Sasha enters for Fisher (presumably to take a foul, because the Lakers had a foul to give, which Farmar eventually took). And that's the last we've seen of Vujacic! When the Lakers were up 21 points with about 3 minutes left in the game, the garbage time went to DJ Mbenga, Walton, Powell, Farmar, and Shannon. Farmar and Shannon who get quality minutes for Fisher and Kobe! Sasha, I believe you are in the dog house.
Yesterday's game 2 featured absolutely no Sasha even though radio announcers Mychal Thompson and Spero Dedes (Local Laker broadcasters) were mentioning before the game that Sasha was available, which could prove useful! HONESTLY, am I the only one not buying into the Sasha bandwagon!?
I predict less than 5 minutes for Sasha in game 3 at Phoenix on Sunday. Let's see what happens.