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All Peja Stojakovic wants is a pain free season

Oct 7, 2010, 9:15 AM EDT

Image (1) nba_stojakovic_250.jpg for post 6330

Last season, Peja Stojakovic missed 20 games due to a lingering back issue. The year before 21. Those two years his field goal percentage dropped 40 points from what it had been three years ago, from three (his specialty) the percentage dropped 60 points.

Now, at age 33, he told Hornets.com what happens next depends on his health.

“This is my 13th season, so I can say that I really want to go through this year pain-free,” Stojakovic said. “Next year I’m going to be 34, so I will sit down and make a decision on my next move in life, whether I am going to continue to play, which I would love to under one condition: that I’m healthy and that I feel physically right to continue.”

Is it possible, then, that this might be his last season in the league? “I don’t want to think about it,” he said. “It’s very hard for any athlete to think about that. I’m just approaching this year as another year in the NBA. I know that as the year goes by, you take hits on your body and you’ve got to accept that and make adjustments and roll with it.”

The last time Stojakovic was injury free was the 07-08 campaign, when he shot 44 percent from three — and the Hornets went to the playoffs looking like an up-and-coming team. Now it looks like a team that wants to rebuild.

Stojakovic’s name will come up in trades to rebuild the Hornets — he makes $14.2 million as an expiring contract. That’s a big chip for teams desperate to drop payroll, and could be used by the Hornets to bring back pieces that will keep Chris Paul happy. You can bet Del Demps will be shopping him.

How much interest there is in him will be partially determined by his health. It always seems to come back to that. Stojakovic would see his role change to coming off the bench, his minutes could drop again.

Next season Stojakovic will be 34. He could return to Europe (he played professionally in Greece before coming to the Kings in 1996) or maybe find an NBA team where he is the designated shooter off the bench. Either way, he said he does not want to quit playing.

“I’m looking forward to playing a couple more years. I really want to be out there, because I still enjoy the game. Hopefully I’m going to be allowed to do it, health-wise.”

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