Here is today's star article.
Stojakovic appears good fit for Pacers
Contracts of Kings' sharpshooter and Indiana's Artest would make for easy trade.
Peja Stojakovic is one of the league's best shooters with a .398 mark from 3-point range in six NBA seasons. -- Garrett Ellwood / Getty Images
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By Mark Montieth
August 7, 2004
The tremors from Sacramento Kings forward Peja Stojakovic's trade demand have rolled straight to Indiana, where he's already the focus of rampant speculation in a deal involving Ron Artest.
Stojakovic, the NBA's second-leading scorer last season with a 24.2 average, revealed Thursday he told the Kings on July 23 he wanted to be traded.
The Pacers qualify as a logical destination, given president Larry Bird's public admiration for Stojakovic and the fact his contract closely matches that of Artest.
Stojakovic's agent, David Bauman, told the Sacramento Bee that Bird had inquired about an Artest-Stojakovic deal in June. Friday, Bauman confirmed the Pacers' interest and Stojakovic's desire to leave the Kings.
"Larry Bird is a very tenacious general manager and he's going to do everything he can to make something happen," Bauman said in a telephone interview from Serbia and Montenegro, where Stojakovic has been making promotional appearances for the Serbian national team.
"I dealt with him in the draft. He's calling and pushing and coming up with ideas all the time."
Bauman said Stojakovic put his Sacramento home up for sale Friday and plans to reiterate his demand in a telephone conversation with Kings co-owner Joe Maloof tonight.
"They're going to realize Peja is deadset on this," Bauman said. "It's probably better to make the best trade you can make now.
"We're putting a ton of pressure on the Kings and the Kings' owners."
Bird and Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh were out of the office and unavailable for comment Friday. Artest and Kings general manager Geoff Petrie did not return calls.
Artest's agent, Mark Bartelstein, would not confirm trade discussions.
"I don't think there's anything imminent or anything like that," Bartelstein said.
A straight-up deal involving the two players would qualify under NBA salary cap rules because their salaries match closely enough, or the Pacers could include a minimum salary player. Stojakovic will be paid $6.875 million next season, while Artest will receive $6.2 million.
Artest played in the All-Star game and was named Defensive Player of the Year last season. He averaged 18.3 points during the regular season, but his production fell off sharply as the playoffs progressed. He averaged 14.5 points in the conference finals loss to Detroit, shooting .298 from the field and .194 from 3-point range.
Stojakovic played in the All-Star game for the third consecutive season and had a career-high regular-season scoring average, but also struggled in the postseason. He averaged 17.5 points in 12 playoff games, shooting .384 from the field and .315 from 3-point range. He hit 3-of-12 shots in the Kings' Game 7 loss to Minnesota and was criticized by the Sacramento media for becoming passive.
"I wasn't able to find my game the whole playoffs," he said.
Stojakovic's regular-season production fell off after Kings forward Chris Webber returned from a knee injury for the final 23 games. The lack of on-court chemistry between the two was exacerbated after Webber criticized the effort of some teammates after the Game 7 loss to Minnesota.
Stojakovic also is said to be upset by the loss of Kings center Vlade Divac, his closest friend on the team. Divac had been the Kings' most powerful locker room presence, a role Webber will likely inherit.
"Now that Vlade is gone, this team is going to take my tone," Webber said in an interview published in the Sacramento Bee on Sunday.
Asked what changes he'd like to see Kings management make in the offseason, Webber asked for a player fitting Artest's description.
"I'd just like to see an aggressive defender at the three (small forward) spot," he said.
Bird, meanwhile, has stated the Pacers need more scoring and improved outside shooting to take pressure off Jermaine O'Neal around the basket. Bird has called Stojakovic "the best shooter in the NBA by far."
Stojakovic, 27, has hit .398 from 3-point range and .885 from the foul line in his six NBA seasons.
Stojakovic, whose girlfriend is due to give birth to their first child Aug. 15, has not stated a preference to play for a specific team, but Bauman said he would be happy with a trade to the Pacers.
"He's looking for a team that's successful and has a chance to win," Bauman said. "We did look at Indiana and Indiana does fit his parameters."