All Peja Stojakovic wants is a pain free season

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Last season, Peja Stojakovic missed 20 games due to a lingering back issue. The year before 21. Those two years his field goal percentage dropped 40 points from what it had been three years ago, from three (his specialty) the percentage dropped 60 points.

Now, at age 33, he told Hornets.com what happens next depends on his health.

“This is my 13th season, so I can say that I really want to go through this year pain-free,” Stojakovic said. “Next year I’m going to be 34, so I will sit down and make a decision on my next move in life, whether I am going to continue to play, which I would love to under one condition: that I’m healthy and that I feel physically right to continue.”

Is it possible, then, that this might be his last season in the league? “I don’t want to think about it,” he said. “It’s very hard for any athlete to think about that. I’m just approaching this year as another year in the NBA. I know that as the year goes by, you take hits on your body and you’ve got to accept that and make adjustments and roll with it.”

The last time Stojakovic was injury free was the 07-08 campaign, when he shot 44 percent from three — and the Hornets went to the playoffs looking like an up-and-coming team. Now it looks like a team that wants to rebuild.

Stojakovic’s name will come up in trades to rebuild the Hornets — he makes $14.2 million as an expiring contract. That’s a big chip for teams desperate to drop payroll, and could be used by the Hornets to bring back pieces that will keep Chris Paul happy. You can bet Del Demps will be shopping him.

How much interest there is in him will be partially determined by his health. It always seems to come back to that. Stojakovic would see his role change to coming off the bench, his minutes could drop again.

Next season Stojakovic will be 34. He could return to Europe (he played professionally in Greece before coming to the Kings in 1996) or maybe find an NBA team where he is the designated shooter off the bench. Either way, he said he does not want to quit playing.

“I’m looking forward to playing a couple more years. I really want to be out there, because I still enjoy the game. Hopefully I’m going to be allowed to do it, health-wise.”

Joel Embiid upgrades himself from 69% to 81%: ‘Shoutout to Jalen Rose’

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A story in three parts:

1. After posting 46-15-7-7 in a win over the Lakers, frequently injured 76ers center Joe Embiid declared himself to be 69%:

2. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose called that joke “unprofessional:”

3. Embiid upgraded his status to 81% with a “shoutout to Jalen Rose:”

In case you didn’t get the joke.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!