A Farewell to Peja

Published: November 21, 2010

(Thanks to the amazing Dariusz Ejkiewicz for the Peja Banner.)

I’m having a hard time with this.  I’ve struggled to wrap up Peja’s time in New Orleans with a neat little bow and generate a pithy quote to summarize it. I’ve toyed with “laced with disappointment”, “Sigh . . . ” and “None of it was his fault” but all of those have a heavy negative connotation that I don’t feel is justified. 

You see, I have a warm spot in my heart for Peja.  I simply love the three-point shot when launched by an expert marksman.  Unlike the dunk, which provides a moment of savage joy and trailing glee after the fact, the three-point shot is laced with anticipation and dread that makes the culmination so much better.  As the shooter breaks free, butts leave the seat, adrenaline pumps as the ball arcs through the air, and when it goes down, there’s the explosion of joy, enhanced threefold by relief.  Essentially, the three-point shot provides an NBA fan with the same fix a gambler gets, and in that respect Peja is a Master. He served up that fix on a platter while limiting the moments of disappointment, making all of us feel like we were on a hot streak.

So while my brain screams at me that Peja was barely more than ordinary at his best in New Orleans – fairly inefficient, a sometime  adequate defender, and incapable of doing more than scoring – my heart cleaves to those three pointers in transition, the broken plays with the ball landing neatly in his hands beyond the arc, the fading corner trey that would go down despite the man in his face.  I have trouble forgetting the franchise record 10 threes against the Lakers, the 22 points in one quarter against the Bobcats.  The three threes over four posessions from the exact same spot on the floor against Philadelphia last year that capped a game-clinching 15-2 run.

The Peja Heads.

My brain points out he missed most of his first season with a back injury that made him never come close to living up to his 65-million dollar contract.  That his presence on the Hornets killed their cap flexibility for years.  That the Spurs broke the Hornets in the playoffs by simply trailing him closely on the perimeter.  That he never fought for a rebound or subscribed to the ‘no layups’ rule.

All that is true.  But I’ll still miss him.

Good luck in Toronto, and wherever you go after that, Peja.  Thanks.


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