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Peja Stojakovic Wants to Play Another Season in the NBA

Feb 11, 2011 – 9:57 PM
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Chris Tomasson

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Peja Stojakovic doesn't want to retire. He doesn't want to finish his career in Europe.

He hopes to stay in the NBA.

While there is no guarantee an NBA team will want to sign Stojakovic when he becomes a free agent this summer, he let that desire be known in an interview with FanHouse.

"That's my preference,'' said the Dallas forward, a 13-year veteran. "I would like to finish in the NBA. But it depends on how I feel physically. If I can play another year (in the NBA), that'd be great.''

Stojakovic is an old 33. Nagging injuries have made him nowhere near the player who made three All-Star appearances and four times averaged more than 20 points in the first half of the past decade.

There had been rumblings the Serbian might retire after this season or look to finish his career in Europe. He didn't rule those out as options in an interview last season with FanHouse.

But now he wants to squeeze out another NBA season.

"I still enjoy playing,'' he said.

Stojakovic enjoyed it plenty when he had his contract bought out by Toronto last month and was signed as a free agent with Dallas. Stojakovic was dismayed when he had played little at the start of the season with New Orleans and being dealt Nov. 20 to Toronto was not intended to be much of a solution.

The Raptors were willing to take Stojakovic, who had been making $14.26 million in the final year of a five-year, $64 million deal, because they also got young guard Jerryd Bayless in the deal and they had no problem parting with Marcus Banks, Jarrett Jack and David Andersen. Stojakovic said there was an understanding he wouldn't be long for the Raptors.

"When I got traded, we were very open with everything,'' Stojakovic said. "Either they were going to trade me (by the Feb. 24 deadline) or buy me out ... I didn't know about Dallas until the buyout happened ... I thought it was a good fit for me.''

The buyout came Jan. 20 and Stojakovic signed a prorated minimum contract with the Mavericks on Jan. 24. Stojakovic won't reveal the buyout figure but said the numbers "worked out for both sides.''

Stojakovic hadn't played since Nov. 26 due to a knee injury. After he finally got into his first Dallas game last Monday against Cleveland, he has averaged a quite modest 4.7 points on 5-of-20 shooting while starting all three of his games.

"Being out for eight weeks and not playing basketball is definitely a different thing,'' said Stojakovic, who actually went more than 10 weeks without game action. 'I've been working real hard to ... get into playing shape and get the rhythm back and try to be a help to this team.''

How much he helps between now and the trade deadline figures to play a role in whether Dallas might make a deal. Stojakovic is starting at small forward, the spot manned by Caron Butler until he went down Jan. 1 with a knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the regular season and perhaps during the playoffs, depending on how far the Mavericks advance.

"We're getting Peja worked in,'' Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said of Stojakovic, whose 7.2 overall scoring average this season is 10 points lower than his 17.2 career mark. "There's uncertainties. There's no absolutes in this league. You try to do the best you can.''

Common sense would dictate that if the Mavericks don't believe Stojakovic has it anymore, they'd be more likely to make a trade. But Cuban played it coy when asked about the possibility of a deadline deal.

"We'll approach it the same way we always do,'' said Cuban, whose Mavericks (37-16) had their 10-game winning streak broken with a 121-120 loss Thursday at Denver. "We'll be opportunistic. If something good comes along, we'll do it. If not, not. It's that simple.''

Getting Stojakovic untracked might not be as simple. He says he's gotten open looks but the shots just aren't going down.

"He's been out of basketball for about a month and a half,'' said Dallas guard Jason Terry, who, like Stojakovic, used a time frame shorter the actual time he went without getting into a game. "So it's going to take a good two or three weeks.''

The problem in recent years for Stojakovic has been staying healthy. After signing his big contract with the Hornets in the summer of 2006, he played in just 13 games in 2006-07 due to back surgery.

Stojakovic got into 77 games in 2007-08 and averaged 16.4 points. But he then missed 20 or more games in each of the next two seasons while averaging 13.0 points during those seasons combined.

"I've been in and out because of small injuries,'' Stojakovic said of recent seasons. "It's going to be very interesting to see how my body is going to respond (in Dallas).''

Stojakovic says he feels well now. It's just a matter of getting off the rust.

Stojakovic looks in need a very large bottle of Rust-Oleum. The guy who is fourth in NBA history in three-pointers made and who is a two-time All-Star three-point champion is just 1-of-11 from beyond the arc with the Mavericks.

But Stojakovic believes he can get his game going again. He does seek another NBA season.

Chris Tomasson
Chris Tomasson | Twitter: @ChrisTomasson | E-mail Chris

Chris Tomasson covered the Denver Nuggets from 2002-09 for the defunct Rocky Mountain News. Prior to that, he was on the Cleveland Cavaliers beat for the Akron Beacon Journal and also has covered five Olympics, major college sports, the NFL and MLB. He has won numerous awards, including 10 in the past nine Pro Basketball Writers Association contests.
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