Vujacic return to Lakers closer

LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers bench, much maligned all season and called out by Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson after relinquishing a big lead in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Utah Jazz, received a bit of good news Tuesday.

Reserve guard Sasha Vujacic, out of the lineup since severely spraining his left ankle in the Lakers regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 14, ran on an anti-gravity treadmill with 20 percent of his body weight, about 40 pounds, removed on Tuesday and Vujacic said before Game 2 that his recovery is "ahead of schedule."

"It's going really well," Vujacic said before walking barefoot through the locker room without a walking boot or the aid of any crutches, his left ankle still showing a slight yellow discoloration. "I'm really happy that I'll be back soon."

The sixth-year veteran who averaged 2.8 points and 1.2 rebounds during the year would not offer a definitive return date, but indicated that if the Lakers second-round series goes more than four games there is a chance his comeback will occur against the Jazz.

Vujacic said that the silver lining to the time off was the chance to further rehabilitate his strained right shoulder that caused him to miss eight games from late February to early March.

"Who knows why I got hurt," Vujacic said. "It happens in the world of sports but after being out with the ankle, now I can make my shoulder stronger and do everything I can to come back.

The 6-foot-7 Vujacic, who can play both guard positions for the Lakers, said he is using the time away from the court to concentrate on scouting L.A.'s opponents.
"I'm doing a lot of scouting," Vujacic said. "Definitely more video than I did the past playoffs trying to analyze everything."

The 26-year-old said he empathizes with what Lakers center Andrew Bynum had to go through during the 2008 playoffs when he was out with a left knee injury.

"It's one of the worst things," Vujacic said. "It's one of the worst things not playing and watching the games, but especially when the playoffs come. I would love to be on the court, that's what I live for."