Owners shoot down unexpected request

Updated: August 6, 2004, 12:07 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- Peja Stojakovic wants out of Sacramento.

Peja Stojakovic
Small Forward
Sacramento Kings
81 24.2 6.3 2.1 .480 .927

Stojakovic told The Associated Press on Thursday that he told Kings general manager Geoff Petrie he wants to be traded from the only NBA team he has played for.

"I think the change would be good for the team and for myself," Stojakovic told the AP in a telephone interview. "That's the only explanation you're going to get from me."

Stojakovic, though, may not be headed anywhere, if you believe Kings co-owner Joe Maloof.

"I don't want to trade Peja and I have spoken with my brother Gavin. We have absolutely no intention and no plan to trade him," Maloof told ESPN's Jim Gray. "We love Peja and we understand that he is a little upset but we haven't spoken to him yet. I am confident that we can work this out as a family."

Stojakovic, a three-time All-Star and the NBA's second-leading scorer last season, has been with the Kings since entering the league in 1998. He was upset that the Kings lost countryman Vlade Divac to the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent and feels it's time to move on.

The Kings were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last season, losing in seven games to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"You could see this year, late in the year, we didn't have good chemistry and didn't play good basketball," Stojakovic told the AP. "I just think that the team had their chances, and opportunities are closing, and the team needs new players.

"I'm probably one of the easiest players to trade, and I'm willing to go."

Stojakovic, one of the game's best pure shooters, has two years remaining on his contract plus an option for a third year. He has been one of the most popular players in Kings history, with such a loyal following in his home country that the Kings are easily the most popular NBA team in Serbia-Montenegro.

Stojakovic was in Belgrade on Thursday for a promotional appearance ahead of his country's exhibition game Friday against the U.S. Olympic basketball team. He is not playing for his nation this summer.

His trade request was unexpected.

"I just think it would be good for them and myself. Sacramento is great, but I think I need a change," Stojakovic said.

Though Stojakovic's stance is sure to shock the Kings' fans, it was no surprise to Petrie, who had lunch with the three-time All-Star several weeks ago.

Petrie was noncommittal on the possibility of accommodating Stojakovic's request.

"It's something that's been building for a little while," Petrie said. "He's one of the last guys on our team that I would want to trade or would even want to think about trading.

"He has certainly flourished here, but he feels at this moment that he's concerned about his ability to succeed at the level he wants to be at."

Stojakovic said he doesn't have a preference about where he's dealt, adding that he had been thinking about asking for a trade all summer.

He isn't sure what he would do if the Kings don't move him.

"You would rather have somebody [who is] happy. He [Petrie] can get something good in return for me," said Stojakovic, who averaged 24.2 points and 6.3 rebounds last season.

Sacramento went to the Western Conference finals in 2002, but has been knocked out in the second round each of the past two years. The Kings floundered late last season following Chris Webber's return from knee surgery, losing six of their final nine regular-season games.

In addition to his disappointment over the Kings' loss of Divac, Stojakovic apparently was angered by Webber's comments on Sacramento's character.

After losing Game 7 of the conference semifinals in Minnesota, Webber blasted unnamed teammates for a lack of resolve in difficult situations -- and most assumed Webber was referring to Stojakovic, who struggled in the playoffs.

Webber addressed much the same concerns in a recent interview with the Sacramento Bee, again without naming any Kings. Webber said Stojakovic was a hard worker and a dedicated teammate.

"I'm not trying to call out Peja," Webber told the Bee. "I was calling out a lot of people. I was calling out our team. I was calling out our mentality. It's time to stop playing soft and (like) suburban kids. That's what we play like. We play like we're from the suburbs, and the best basketball is played in the city."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.