Vujacic stays in LA, signs with Lakers

2008-07-30 00:25:13 GMT       2008-07-30 08:25:13 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

BEIJING, July 10 -- Had it been strictly a matter of economics, Sasha Vujacic would have left the Los Angeles Lakers to play in Europe. Turns out Vujacic's decision was based on more than just the money.

"I'm glad it worked out. Tough month," the 24-year-old Slovenian guard said on Monday after signing a three-year, US$15 million contract to return to the Lakers.

"The only thing I can say is I'm happy to stay in L.A. I'm happy to stay with the Lakers. That was my first option. It would be hard to leave."

Vujacic averaged an NBA career-high 8.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 72 games this past season, and 8.1 points 2.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists while playing in all 21 playoff games.

"I thought he had a wonderful year this year," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We're hoping he continues to develop."

The Lakers made Vujacic a US$2.6 million initial offer earlier this month, but negotiations weren't progressing very quickly and agent Rob Pelinka spoke with European teams, as well. Pelinka said Vujacic could have earned more by accepting a three-year contract offer to play abroad.

"He was (offered more), you have to look at the taxes," Pelinka said. "The opportunity there was more lucrative. His heart was here. Throughout all the conversations, he made it clear if there was a way to get a fair deal here, that's what he wanted."

Vujacic, a restricted free agent, could have signed an offer sheet with another American team and the Lakers would have had the right to match it. They had no such leverage if he chose to return to Europe.

"I'm glad it worked out and I'm looking forward to next season," Vujacic said. "Now, I can clear my mind a little bit. I know where I'm going to be for the next three years. It's great. I'm a gym rat. I'm in the gym all the time. Next year, I want to be better than I was in the previous season. That's my goal."

(Source: Shanghai Daily/Agencies)

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