Predrag Stojakovic: "Chris Paul should be an MVP"
How do you compare this season with all the successful seasons you had in Sacramento with the Kings?
Predrag Stojakovic: My role right now is so much different than what it was with the Kings. Simply put, I, as a basketball player, am not the same after the back injury.
What bothers you right now? Are you in any kind of pain that limits your output on the basketball court?
PS: I can’t say that anything in particular physically bothers me right now. My goal for this season was to start it without any back issues and to slowly go back to the form I had before the injury. Only for a few moments this feeling from the past days returns and it reminds me how good it used to be. I think that the next season will be better regarding my health, which would enable me to not have these ups and downs in my game as I did this season.
Over the All-Star break, you told me that you are still getting injections to alleviate the back pain. What do the treatments consist of right now?
PS: I still take painkillers. Back-to-back games are simply murderous for me. I know how important these games are, though, and that is why my minutes are so much bigger now than they were at the beginning of this season. Therefore, there’s no time nor space for whining. We need to be all together and be all ready for the play-offs.
Can you compare the chances of your team in the play-offs right now, with the chances the old Kings you used to play had when they were really good three or four years ago?
PS: It is very hard to compare those two teams. Simply because these Hornets have never played in the play-offs with this roster. This team still has to prove itself. However, I believe in this team, I believe that we have lots of talent. Are we going to match our talent with our results – it’s all on us. Sacramento, on the other hand, reached its peak at the same time when the team discombobulated. The Hornets have the future, we will see what happens in the play-offs.
What are the key advantages of this Hornet team?
You played with terrific passers on different positions – Vlade Divac and Chris Paul. Can you compare how you benefit as a player from these excellent passers?
PS: I would add that I played with another great passer, that is Chris Webber. In Sacramento, we played different style of basketball, since the ball changed hands so fast. Here in New Orleans, we have Chris who creates plays for the whole team. He did an outstanding job and he should be an MVP this season.
You think he deserves this honor before Kobe?
PS: I think he does, but, yet again, you can’t go wrong if you give an MVP honor to Kobe any given year. He is just that good. Chris’ case is exemplified with his role on the same team that he lead to the highest spot in the Western Conference after only 38 wins last season.
What about Byron Scott, and his candidacy for the Coach of the Year recognition?
PS: He did an excellent job, really. He is a true leader of this team. He always prepares us to the maximum both physically and mentally for every single game. That’s how he was as a player – there are no misses in the game preparation.
Your drive and motivation for basketball is much higher this season than the last. Why is that so?
PS: I was injured most of the last season. Team did not play too good. Right now, our team is playing great, we have a great atmosphere, and we are a young team with the bright future ahead of us. We get along well through wins, as well as through losses.
What’s the difference between the 25-year old All-Star Peja from five years ago, or 31-year old role player in New Orleans?
PS: I simply have a different role in this Hornets team. I understood my role perfectly well, and I have no problems with it. I’m glad to be able to help this young team get to the play-offs and, hopefully, play a significant role in them.
PS: Those things happen in basketball once in a while. They caught the right series of games when they played phenomenally well. They even continued their streak after Yao became unavailable due to the injury. Rick Adelman is an outstanding coach. He succeeded in implementing his offensive system in the Rockets, as well as before that with the Kings. Although, I don’t think they can go to far in the play-offs without Yao Ming.
Are you happy enough being a Hornet to see yourself ending a career in New Orleans?
PS: At this moment, that is still too early to say. I think I still have a few good playing years ahead of me. I just hope that I end my career healthy. I mean, I want to decide on my own when it is time to call it quits.
Were there moments during the last season when you were just fed up with this injury and wanted to end the career right there and then?
PS: There were a lot of moments like that, of course. I was thinking very seriously about where my career is going to go after this injury, and whether or not I would be able to continue to play basketball professionally. Those thoughts go through the head of every injured player. As one gets older, injuries get harder and harder to heal. But, everything falls into place if one is a patient and hard-working person. The way I felt last summer, I didn’t even think that I would be participating in training camp and the team itself when the season started. However, at the end, everything was resolved in the right way.
Does this maturity in reasoning about your career help you to fit better in your downsized role in the team, after the glory days and three All-Star appearances while in Sacramento?
PS: There’s time and place for everything. I think my role in the Hornets is a very good one. I can’t say that I play a minor role on this team. It is actually quite to the contrary. The team’s game depends quite a bit on how good I am playing on any given night.
How hard was it to fit in the Byron Scott’s basketball philosophy?
PS: It is definitely different from anything I have experienced before in my playing career. It was different from Coach Adelman’s approach both in practice and in games. It took me a little while to fit in. However, we professionals adept very quickly.
Nebojsa Petrovacki is an editor of Sportska Centrala, sports news agency from Serbia