Stojakovic hopes to lead Pacers to playoffs

Updated: January 27, 2006, 9:16 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Peja Stojakovic believes the Sacramento Kings traded him to a playoff contender when they sent him to the Indiana Pacers for Ron Artest.

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Indiana Pacers

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"When I heard it was the Pacers, I was really happy," he said. "It's a great organization, the team is great. I hope I can fit into the system pretty fast."

Stojakovic arrived in Indianapolis on Friday and sat out the Pacers' game against Cleveland. The Pacers decided he won't play until Tuesday's game at Washington. His first home game will be Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I think we could throw him out there tonight," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said before Friday's game. "He'd go out there and he'd have a good feel for the game. It would be hard for him on defense with the schemes we run."

Stojakovic, a 6-foot-10 forward, averaged 18.5 points and shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range during his seven-plus NBA seasons, all with the Kings. This season, he has averaged 16.5 points a game and has a 39.7 3-point percentage.

Stojakovic's presence will cause more lineup shuffling for Carlisle.

All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal will miss at least eight weeks with a torn left groin. Centers Jeff Foster, Scot Pollard and David Harrison and starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley all have missed games because of injuries.

Only Stephen Jackson and rookie Sarunas Jasikevicius have played in all 41 games for Indiana. The Pacers started the season aiming for an NBA championship, but reached the halfway point of the season with a 21-20 record.

Despite that, Stojakovic believes the Pacers are still a strong team.

"I've watched them the last three years," he said. "They've lost players to injuries and suspensions and they've always been able to win games."

Pacers president Larry Bird said the team pursued Stojakovic for the last two years.

"I think he'll make an immediate impact because of the skills that he has," Bird said.

Stojakovic has missed nine games this season. His list of injuries includes a protruding disc in his lower back, a sprained right pinkie finger and a strained groin.

But he said he is healthy.

"I feel pretty good right now after coming back from injuries," he said. "I've felt pretty good the last two or three games."

Now, Stojakovic wants to help the Pacers salvage their season.

"I'm ready," he said. "I'm ready to accept the new challenge. This is a fresh start for me."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press