LOS ANGELES (AP) -Lakers restricted free agent guard Sasha Vujacic has agreed to a three-year, $15 million contract after emerging last season as a key member of the Western Conference champions.
``We felt Sasha made great progress in this past year, and our coach showed great confidence in playing him the second half of the season,'' Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday in confirming the agreement, first reported by the Riverside Press-Enterprise. ``Assuming he continues to work as hard during the offseason as he has in the past, I don't see any reason that trend wouldn't continue.''
The 24-year-old Vujacic averaged a career-high 8.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 72 games this season, and 8.1 points 2.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists while playing in all 21 playoff games.
Vujacic drew national attention June 10, scoring a career playoff high 20 points including a crucial 3-pointer with a little under two minutes remaining in the Lakers' 87-81 victory over the Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA finals.
The Lakers had made Vujacic a $2.6 million qualifying offer, and he reportedly was considering playing in Europe. Kupchak said he didn't know if that sped up negotiations.
``I think in this type of environment with restricted free agency, it could drag on and on,'' he said. ``If anything, they needed to know where we stood. There is a real competitive environment outside of the NBA now, and it could be short-lived. We don't know. But we would not have done anything that we didn't think was a prudent business/basketball decision.''
Josh Childress announced earlier this week he was leaving the Atlanta Hawks for Greek club Olympiakos, reversing the course of the many international stars who have signed with the NBA. Agent Jim Tanner said Childress was guaranteed about $20 million after taxes, and that Childress could opt out of the contract after each year.
The Lakers will hold a press conference Monday at team headquarters in suburban El Segundo to officially announce the signing.
The Lakers made Vujacic, a 6-foot-7, 205-pounder from Slovenia, the 27th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft. Vujacic averaged 2.9 points in 35 games as a rookie, 3.9 points in 82 games in his second professional season, and 4.3 points in 73 games in 2006-07.
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