During his career, former Yugoslavian international and NBA champion, Predrag Stojakovic, was renowned for his shooting ability, claiming the three-point shooting crown on two occasions.
So in keeping with Stojakovic’s sharp shooting, TalkBasket took just sixty seconds to fire off questions at the 36 year old as the clock ran down.
TB: What’s the latest on the rumours that the Sacramento Kings will be retiring your jersey?
Peja: “I don’t know but I would be very honoured.”
TB: What would it mean to you if the Kings do hang it in the rafters?
Peja: “All the hard work, everything that I did in Sacramento, for the organisation, for the city it would be an incredible honour to have my jersey besides Vlade’s and Chris’. We had a tremendous run for six years together and we made that team from one of the worst to one of the best in a very short period of time.”
TB: You’re a two-time NBA three-point shootout champion but which European, past or present could beat you?
Peja: “None. Europeans? None.”
TB: Okay, how about anybody else?
Peja: “I do like, very much, Ray Allen. I think he’s an incredible shooter. Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr. [But I] never competed against them… Ray Allen, I did in 2000 and 2001 season, and I lost in a three-point contest [Allen beat Stojakovic 19-17 in the final round]. But Ray Allen, his numbers are speaking for himself. He’s the number one in three point field goals made in the history of basketball.”
TB: Who exactly were your basketball idols growing up?
Peja: “I never thought I was going to be known as a shooter. In Europe it was different – you want to find out about all the fundamentals that comes to the basketball and that was what I was taught from an early age. And then in the U.S, you have to adjust your game and obviously shooting helped me and I got known for my shooting skills.”
TB: Best player you’ve ever played with or against?
Peja: “Dirk Nowitzki. There’s a lot of discussion and you can go back and forth but I think Dirk has accomplished so much, shown consistency throughout a 15-year NBA career, loyalty to the Dallas Mavericks. Just at the highest level for 15 straight years. Amazing. And NBA champion and MVP. To me, not to disrespect anybody else because all of the guys have come and have respectfully good careers but to me, Dirk is the one who separates from everybody else.”
TB: What was so special about that 2010/11 NBA Championship winning Dallas Mavericks side?
Peja: “You had a bunch of guys who were coming to the end of their career, none of them won before so nobody gave us any chances. We had great chemistry on and off the court. We talked about it: This is the time to sacrifice our games for the good of the team. Obviously Dirk Nowitzki was amazing in the Playoffs and in the Finals. You need that kind of player to accomplish that kind of goal.”
TB: Who, in your mind will win the 2013/14 NBA Championship?
Peja: “I don’t see Dallas being in the top five as of now. Obviously, you have Miami who are defending champs and have three players who are top ten in the world. I like Oklahoma City they are a really interesting team to watch. They have talent to go there. [LA] Clippers can be a team to watch with Doc Rivers. Maybe he will be able to change the culture over there. You can’t sleep on the San Antonio [Spurs] and Lakers because they have experience and personnel to do that. I like Chicago very much because of Derrick Rose and they play great team basketball. A great coach. And last but not least, you expect the Brooklyn Nets because of the names. You have to wait and see how they’re going to mesh together.”
TB: Do you think European players can fulfill their potential if they don’t play in the NBA?
Peja: “It has to do with the confidence and how much you believe in yourself. I always wanted to play in the NBA to compete against the best and I think that’s the only way you reach your potential. I think if you’re staying and playing at the Euroleague level for more than two or three years, it’s not going to do you better for your career. I think you need to find a challenge for your own sake and to reach your potential. Over here, you play domestically; you don’t care. You wait for other Euroleague match against Barcelona, ‘Okay, I’m going pump myself up and get ready for this game.’ You can’t develop your game by playing one strong match a month.”
TB: And finally, can you name a young European player that you think will be a star?
Peja: “He had a very good European Championship. His name is Bojan Bogdanovic. He plays for Fenerbahçe. I think he has a good upside. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops, how much he wants to be there, how much he wants to be better, does he look for challenges, is he happy there.”