November 16, 2018

Peja Stojakovic Finding his Game in New Orleans, 2008 Playoffs

2008/05/06 9:07 pm 9:07 pm9:07 pm9:07 pm 0 comments

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Stojakovic celebrates a threeIt wasn’t that long ago when Peja Stojakovic was the king of international NBA players – it only seems like it’s been a long time.

After a couple subpar playoff series in Sacramento, where he spent seven seasons, Peja was traded away midseason for Ron Artest in 2005-06.

Stojakovic ended up playing out that season in Indiana (40 games).  With Stojakovic an unrestricted free-agent, he left Indiana and signed with New Orleans at the beginning of the 2006-07 season.  His first season was a frustrating year, as a myriad of injuries kept him out of all but 13 games the entire season.

The 2007-08 season has seen he 30-year old sharpshooter climb back into the radar.  The 6-9 Serbian small forward played in 77 games and averaged 16.4 points per game, good for third on the team Although it is his lowest point total since his first two years in the league, Peja found himself playing an important role on an up-and-coming team. “Peja’s shooting opens up the court for the rest of us. said point guard virtuoso and MVP candidate Chris Paul.

And vice-versa.  With the threat of another Chris Paul-Tyson Chandler alley-oop and David West attacking the basket, Peja slipped around the arc, catching pinpoint passes from Paul for open-jumpers. Peja not being the first or second option gave him extra breathing room for his smooth jumpshot this year and led to his most-accurate  three-point percentage of his 10-year career (44.1%).

And New Orleans loves Stojakovic, so much that they came up with an very odd way to show their appreciation and affection for the Serbian star: dubbed “Peja on a Stick.”  After Peja hits a three or scores, a huge cutout of Peja’s head on a stick marches through New Orleans Arena.

Peja Stojakovic on a stick

Peja is making his imprint against the defending champions San Antonio Spurs.  In the first two games, both wins, Peja has benefited from the focus on Chris Paul and has blistered the Spurs for 23.5 points per game, shooting 63.7% from three (7-11) and 60.7% overall (17/28).  “I’m just trying to be aggressive, trying not to force anything,” Stojakovic said.

“Unbelievable.  (Peja’s) filling it up right now,” teammate Morris Peterson said. “He’s probably the best shooter I’ve ever played with.”

This year has also seen Stojakovic showing some new twists in his game.  Back with his time with the Kings, Peja shot threes, ran through picks, backcut, and ran the break for his points.  During this year’s playoffs, it wasn’t uncommon to see Peja post up smaller-guards, backing them down to the rim or shooting turnaround jumpers.

In New Orlean’s seven playoff games thus far, in which they are a surprising 6-1, Stojakovic is shooting an amazing 61.5% from three-point range, hitting 24 for 39 long range bombs.

So are we witnessing the resurgence of Peja Stojakovic, NBA all-star?  Stojakovic knowingly answers like a veteran that understands the ups-and-downs, and the defensive adjustments of the NBA playoffs; “You never know. Some nights you make them and some nights you don’t. I’m just trying to stay focused.” 

Sources: Stojakovic Sizzles Again (2theAdvocate), Peja on a Stick Discussion (Hornet’s Hype Forums),  Peja Stojakovic Head Image for Stojakovic on a stick (Nba.com)

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