The Dallas Mavericks hoped that veteran forward Peja Stojakovic would become a cheap, easy and effective option to fill the roster void that former all-star Caron Butler’s season-ending knee injury left. On paper, Stojakovic is a seasoned player with playoff experience who has been known for his perimeter shooting and timely offense throughout his 12-year career.
Sorry Mark Cuban. At this point, the Mavs need to understand that Stojakovic is not an asset to the team, but a liability.
Stojakovic’s memorable career is in its twilight, if not already molding. NBA players only age like a fine wine to a certain point in their career before their game turns to moldy Wonder Bread. The knee injury that kept him out for almost three months is not a good sign for his future durability 8212; something is already beginning to reek.
Stojakovic has said he feels healthy, but he played for a mere 20 minutes against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. In that time, he was 1-for-6 in his three-point shooting and showed no defense whatsoever. Against a Cavs team that just set the NBA record for most consecutive losses (25), Stojakovic needed to show at least some resemblance of the player that stung the Mavs with assassin-like accuracy for so many seasons with the Kings, Pacers and Hornets. The three-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA 3-point Shootout Champion’s game is no longer deadly.
That, along with the language and actions expressed by head coach Rick Carlisle, alludes to something about Stojakovic that should raise red flags for Mavericks fans.
There appears to be an underlying message that the Mavericks don’t want to openly admit. When first addressed about Stojakovic’s health, Head coach Rick Carlisle said the staff’s goal was to make sure that Stojakovic had enough strength and conditioning to play. If a simple swollen knee is all that was bothering Stojakovic, why did Carlisle refer so often to strength and conditioning issues?
Strength and conditioning refers to stamina and the ability to take the beatings of professional basketball. If Carlisle was genuinely concerned about Stojakovic’s ability to simply run up and down the court with enough stamina to just keep up with other players, there’s no way that Stojakovic is going to last for the remainder of the season, let alone the playoffs.
In Stojakovic’s limited performance this season, it’s a valid argument to say that Stojakovic is incapable of playing effective enough basketball for a long enough time. Even before his injury, Stojakovic never topped more than 20 minutes in a game this season. Especially after a post-knee injury, there’s no way Stojakovic will be able to play enough time in a game to make a significant impact for the Mavericks.
Stojakovic is no longer the dynamic All-Star he once was. If a contender such as the New Orleans Hornets felt that he was not necessary for a playoff run, and a weaker team such as Toronto felt that he wasn’t worth more than a fourth-string center in a trade, perhaps it is time that the Mavericks realize that Stojakovic is not the solution they are looking for. Riding a nine-game winning streak going into Wednesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings (ironically, the team that drafted Stojakovic in “96), the Mavs seem prepared for a playoff run on paper. Don’t be fooled.
The trade deadline is within two weeks. The Mavericks still have time to make a splash and find someone who will effectively fill in Caron Butler’s absence.
J.D. Moore is a freshman journalism major from Honolulu, Hawaii.