The retirement of the 34-year-old Euro, while not a surprise, is notable enough that NBA commissioner David Stern issued a statement along with Peja's.
"I want to thank the Dallas Mavericks for believing in me this past season and for giving me the chance to end my NBA career with a championship,'' Peja Stokakovic said in part in his announcement.
Said Stern: "Peja will go down as one of the great shooters in the history of the NBA. His success was the result of a tireless work ethic and an unquenchable desire to be the best at what he did. Peja's legacy, however, goes way beyond his 3-point skills and that elusive Finals title he won last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Peja was part of the wave of international stars that helped introduce the world to the NBA game and inspired thousands of fans to begin playing the sport of basketball."
Peja joined the Mavs at midseason last year in a clever transaction that rescued him from the end of the Toronto bench. For his career he averaged 17 points per game and shot 40.1 percent from the arc. At times in Dallas' championship season, he played a pivotal role as a shooter – a skill he demonstrated as soon as he trudged onto the Mavs' practice court.
"Peja saved our season,'' Carlisle recently said of the 13-year veteran and three-time All-Star. "Having a guy who was that kind of threat was really big for us.''
Dirk tweeted tonight: "Say it ain't so Peja. One of the best teammates ever and he helped us get that ring.''
But even last year Peja experienced enough injury woes to convince him that "it's time," as he told ESPN. "When you start competing against your body more than you're preparing for the actual game, it's a wakeup call."
Peja helped beat the Lakers in the playoffs by scoring 15 and 21 points in two outings during Dallas' four-game sweep of the defending champs.
"I feel so blessed to have been given the athletic gifts to play professional basketball,'' Peja said. "I have always loved the game and have great respect for it and I know the time is right to step away. I promised myself a long time ago, if it came to the point where my heart and body were not 100 percent committed, I would step away. I have reached that point and I know the time is right to retire. … I want to thank the great fans in Sacramento, Indiana, New Orleans, and Dallas who supported me throughout the years.''
Let us take you back to mid-February, when DB.com (and Mavs Premium Subscribers) got to see The Peja Performance moments after it occurred ... an effort so impressive Nowitzki and most of the rest of the players came back out of the locker room to check it out from up on the crow's nest at the top of the staircase.
At one point, Jason Terry was yelling "Stoy! Stoy!'' in an attempt to distract the team's newcomer. But there would be no distracting Peja. We counted him making 24 of 25 at one point in the drill … and then a moment later a coach told DB.com that he'd rebounded from that single miss to make 39 straight.
Have a look at that stroke:
The Mavs knew this retirement was coming. Meanwhile, they now they plan on another body coming to join the roster. As first reported by DallasBasketball.com on Friday, the Mavs are interested in signing center Sean Williams.
Williams, 25, is an "elastic'' 6-10, 235-pounder who the Mavs know from his successful stint with the D-League Texas Legends last season. He is a terrific shot-blocker, has NBA experience with the Nets (after having been the 17th overall pick in 2007), is a native of Texas and a product of Mansfield High School and was in contact with Mavs officials last week while he was working his way out of a commitment with Maccabi Haifa B.C. in Israel.
Sources tell us he had a contract-out to return to the NBA if he gets an offer. Dallas is bringing him to camp because of its need for a third center, and based on Williams' work with the Legends (in 49 games he scored 14.4 points with 2.9 blocks and 9.4 rebounds per) he may get a chance to compete with Ian Mahinmi for time behind starter Brendan Haywood.