Finding Sacramento: New Orleans needs Peja Stojakovic to regain old form
Offering such a concept twelve months ago would’ve landed you an appointment with Dr. Phil. Not now, though. The Hornets nearly secured first seed in the Western Conference during the regular season, pushed San Antonio to seven games in the second round of the playoffs, and signed free agent prize James Posey this summer …
He arrived in Sacramento a fresh-faced ‘Euro’ and left an established NBA star. I always loved his movement away from the ball, using screens to set-up a catch and shoot corner three-pointer or back door basket.
Peja Stojakovic, now ten seasons deep and on his third team, could be the key to New Orleans winning the Western Conference and wrestling the Lawrence O’Brien championship trophy away from Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.
Offering such a concept twelve months ago would’ve landed you an appointment with Dr. Phil. Not now, though. The Hornets nearly secured first seed in the Western Conference during the regular season, pushed San Antonio to seven games in the second round of the playoffs, and signed free agent prize James Posey this summer.
They are for real.
Winning an NBA Title depends on Stojakovic. New Orleans already boasts a terrifying one-two punch in table-setter Chris Paul and post David West. But the Serbian born wing must rediscover his 2003-2004 form, when he averaged 24 points and an impressive six rebounds and five assists (last season, he posted 16 points, 4 rebounds, and three assists).
Back then being active was the key. Stojakovic, as demonstrated by his six-board average five years ago, hit the glass. He also used his considerable basketball IQ to find his King teammates, dropping impressive dime totals most nights.
In fairness, rebounds and assists decrease when a player isn’t healthy. Stojakovic is now free from years of back pains and must become more than a shooter. The Hornets, behind Paul’s playmaking, like to run. The former All-Star needs to grab more defensive rebounds, fill the lane on the break, and sink transition lay-ups or jumpers.
Then there is defense. New Orleans’ pre-season run on NBATV showed that getting-stops would be a priority. Stojakovic, while solid, has never been a star in his own end. In key moments, Coach Byron Scott could play stoppers Morrison Peterson and Posey instead of Stojakovic.
Of course, Scott understands the gunner mindset. Last year’s coach of the year was the ultimate streak shooter during his own playing days, so he’ll likely support Stojakovic.
The Hornets can take the next step. But Stojakovic must recapture his Sacramento form to help New Orleans forward.