Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register wrote:
He was attempting to improve himself when, oddly and logically, he damaged himself instead.
Of course, Sasha Vujacic was running uphill at the time.
This is a guy who could use a break, this Laker paid for his outside shooting who still hasn't made an outside shot – or a shot from any proximity – since Denver.
You remember Denver, right? Back before the Lakers won their latest NBA title, back before the Magic, back before that creepy Hulk Hogan appearance in Orlando?
Yeah, way back, like when the Dodgers were still considered punchers and not a punch line.
"Of course I wasn't happy, just like every fan of mine wasn't happy and every Lakers fan wasn't happy," Vujacic said of his Finals flameout. "I'm trying to find my game again."
At least he has rediscovered his game again. Vujacic injured himself during the summer, tweaking his knee while running in the Slovenian mountains.
Doesn't that sound like something a saber-toothed tiger would do? Running in the Slovenian mountains, we mean, not tweaking his knee.
Anyway, the knee nagged Vujacic for two weeks, all the local remedies failing. At one point, someone was massaging oil – olive oil – into Vujacic's leg, certain the condition would improve.
Either that, or they were planning to serve Vujacic over a bed of linguine.
"The knee thing might have been best, really," Vujacic said. "I came home – and when I say home, I mean L.A. – a little earlier and the training staff here was able to get me ready to go."
Much like his playoff way-off, Vujacic's summer was sharply uneven, a mix of celebrating the greatest moment of his pro career and contemplating his very place in the sport.
The lowlight came when he returned to Slovenia to play for his home country's national team – the NBA champion triumphantly riding back into town – and was told, ah, no thanks.
Vujacic preferred not to disclose the details, though it's clear someone in the Slovenian Federation isn't a Sasha Vujacic fan. Hey, if this had happened to a Laker in America, we'd all know the story because it would have been made into a reality TV series.
"I was sad," Vujacic said. "I wanted to help the team. But life goes on. I'm beyond that now. What matters is the present and the future. The Laker season, that's what I live for."
The summer wasn't all sore knees and hurt feelings. Vujacic spent a week in Mexico, at a friend's resort, where people recognized him as a Laker and an NBA champion.
While at dinner, some of those same people even sent him cakes for dessert with things like "Congratulations" written in the icing.
He said the locals "had a little party" for him in Slovenia, where those close to Vujacic had battled the nine-hour time difference to watch the Lakers' playoff run on television.
The most significant compliment was when folks he grew up with told him he hadn't changed, that he was still as humble as ever.
"Those were the biggest words and inspiration for me," Vujacic said. "And seeing tears in people's eyes was amazing. They were all so happy for me. It was great."
He looked awfully comfortable after practice Saturday, dressed in a Rolling Stones T-shirt and slippers. No kidding, slippers. Fuzzy ones at that. And, yes, he also was wearing pants.
But unless Vujacic solves his shooting riddle, the comfort won't last long.
"I gotta get that Machine back because that's why I'm here," he said. "I'm trying to turn the page around now."
Vujacic missed 74 percent of his field-goal attempts in the postseason. He made only 16 of 51 (31 percent) three-point tries.
In five games in the Finals, he played just 22 minutes, misfiring on all six of his shots and scoring as many points as Magic season-ticket holder Tiger Woods did.
Vujacic is a grinder, a helpless gym rat, and he did what he always has done when he can't make a shot. He shot more. In practice. Before practice. After practice. Late at night, in bed, with his eyes closed.
Despite the Lakers' coaches urging Vujacic to back off, he continued pushing.
"I'm stubborn, but stubborn got me where I am," he said. "I was probably overdoing it too much. I won't do that again."
This comeback story would have the elements of a soap opera if these weren't the 2009-10 Lakers. As it is, Vujacic's tale is barely a commercial break.
There's the new Laker, Ron Artest, who is destined to be the team's top nit-Twit.
And there's the newlywed Laker, Lamar Odom, who held out for more as a free-agent basketballer but apparently took the first offer that came along as a free-agent bachelor.
Before this season is over, the Lakers could become the first professional sports team to be E!'d, TMZ'd and Shannon Tweed to death.
Somewhere buried in the middle will be Vujacic, the well-olive-oiled-Machine searching for a familiar reflection.