Stojakovic's Return Pushed Back Again By Hornets

Friday, March 30th 2007, 5:11 pm
By: News On 6

BETHANY, Okla. (AP) New Orleans Hornets guard Peja Stojakovic said Friday that a setback in his rehab from back surgery will delay his return to the court, hurting his chances of helping the team make a stretch run for a playoff spot.

"It got a little sore and stiffer," said Stojakovic, a three-time All-Star who had a disc fragment removed from his lower back Dec. 17. "I'm going to relax a couple days and get some medication and see how it goes."

The Hornets had planned to reevaluate Stojakovic to see whether he would be able to play Saturday night against the New York Knicks, but Stojakovic was unable to finish practice Friday. He started the session by shooting, but said he started to stiffen up when he started running. He worked out with trainers instead of practicing with teammates.

The intensity of Stojakovic's workouts was increased this week to determine whether he'd be ready for a return in the stretch run. New Orleans entered Friday 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference's last playoff spot.

"I think doing that, now he's feeling some of the pain of it," coach Byron Scott said. "He's a little sore, so we're going to take a couple of days off to try to let his body get used to that."

Scott said Stojakovic could return to practice Sunday or Monday. With only 10 games left, the Hornets are running out of time to pass the Clippers and the ninth-place Golden State Warriors.

"The only thing I'm thinking is get myself 100%. I don't worry how many games, is it important or not? I miss playing so much," Stojakovic said. "That's my thing. Being out and watching the guys, not being able to play is the hardest thing. I guess it's a process I have to go through."

Stojakovic, who agreed to a five-year contract worth about $64 million after a sign-and-trade with Indiana in the off-season, hasn't played since Nov. 24.

Stojakovic practiced with contact for the first time after his surgery on March 14, and it's been a waiting game since then.

"That's how you have to deal with it," Stojakovic said. "You go day by day, you see how the back responds and if the back is good, then you push harder. If it's not, you relax and see how it goes."