The Machine Shut Down: Why the LA Lakers Traded Sasha Vujacic to New Jersey

Pat MixonSenior Analyst IDecember 14, 2010

The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly trading guard Sasha Vujacic to New Jersey in a three-team deal. The deal should be finalized on Wednesday.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets are in advanced talks on three-way deal sending Terrence Williams to Houston with Sasha Vujacic and a future Houston first-round pick going to the Nets. The Lakers will get Nets forward Joe Smith in return and LA will also send their 2011 first-round pick in 2011 to New Jersey.

So, why would the Lakers shut down the Machine? Money and size. 

And, I’m not talking diamonds. 


Reason One Why Sasha Goes Bye Bye: All About the Benjamins 

I’m talking Joe Smith and getting an expensive player off the books in Sasha, who was making $5.4 million in the final year of his contract to sit on the bench. 

If the Lakers didn’t do something with him before the trade deadline, they would be completely out of luck next summer. Instead, they shut down the self appointed “machine” and get another big in return.

But why trade Sasha? 

Because Sasha has been the odd man out this season. With the emergence of guard Shannon Brown—who spent the summer working on his outside jumper—all of coach Phil Jackson’s bench minutes have gone to Brown. And, Brown delivers.

Additionally, Matt Barnes, acquired this past summer, has also proven to be a consistent performer at the 3 spot. That means Kobe Bryant slides to the guard spot and sucks up more minutes that in past seasons could have gone to Sasha. 

The Lakers’ management looked at their bench and saw an expensive player who didn’t play and saw how thin their front line has been to start this season.

Don’t kid yourself, this is a money-saving deal, with the Lakers picking up well-traveled forward Joe Smith. He’s in a one-year deal making $854,389 this year. That’s a big difference that Dr. Jerry Buss will have to pay compared to the paycheck he cuts Sasha.

I’m not even sure how all of the numbers pan out, counting the draft picks and all. There might even be some cash in the deal. We’ll see the exact breakdown of the trade tomorrow if all goes through as reported.


Reason Two Why Sasha Goes Flop, Flop: Size Matters 

This trade was done for size. This is Dr. Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak hedging. Buss is a gambling man and I think he’s covering his bets, as well as closing up his wallet.

Something tells me this is a cheap insurance policy for centers Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff. If one or both of these two don’t return fully from knee surgery, the Lakers would be hurting in the bigs department. 

The start of this season is all the evidence you need to see why this trade happens. 

Look how run down and worn out Pau Gasol has been, with the massive amount of minutes he stacked up with the Lakers so thin in the middle. Add in Lamar Odom racking up minutes, and another able body in the frontcourt can only help LA.

Smith is a reliable veteran who could come off the bench and give some solid minutes. He also has a high basketball IQ and will pick up the triangle offense quite easily. He’ll be extra valuable come playoff time. He’s got a nice outside shot that you have to defend.

We’ll all miss "The Machine"—the flops, the hair, the hot, tennis-playing girlfriend/wife. But, we won’t miss the whining or his Zorro defense.

But, this is Dr. Buss and Kupchak doing what they do best, making moves that improve their championship team. This is a solid trade that will only benefit the Lakers, assuming all goes through as planned.

And, it is the Laker machine that matters most.


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