When he finally arrived in Sacramento, Stojakovic was a polished offensive weapon—who wasn't expecting to come off the bench and play a meager 21.4 minutes per game. Although he averaged a solid 8.4 points in 1988-89, he was frustrated and ornery. "In Greece, I was a star," Stojakovic says. "Here, I sat and watched."
After games he would return to his house and moan to his parents (who, along with Nenad, live with Peja in Granite Bay, Calif.). At practice and on the road, he and Divac would chat. "To Peja's credit, he kept quiet and never complained," says Divac. "In Europe all the plays ran through him. Now none of them did."
Last season, as Stojakovic impressed Adelman with improved defense and surprisingly rugged rebounding, his playing time increased. Although Williamson was the starting small forward, Stojakovic averaged 11.9 points in 23-6 minutes and was usually on the court for the fourth quarter. In September the Kings sent Williamson to the Toronto Raptors for guard Doug Christie. "Corliss was a good player for us," says Adelman, "but after two seasons, it was obvious: Peja was ready to start."
Dinner at Peja's pad is a wonderful thing. Branka might speak limited English and understand little of American culture, but she cooks one mean steak and potatoes. Often, when Divac is lonely or bored or just hungry, he'll stop by the Stojakovics' and eat to his heart's content. "His mother is a wonderful cook," says Divac. "Good home food."
Stojakovic has fit in beautifully with the Kings. His wardrobe is frequently the butt of teammates' jokes—"They don't understand," Peja says. "Fashion is coming from Europe to America"—but he takes the ribbing with a smile. "He's funny, and he's smart," says Webber. "He's a cool guy to hang with."
In the off-season Stojakovic, a Greek citizen, is a regular on the club scene in Thessaloniki, where he still owns a house. His favorite beverage? Cold coffee. "It tastes best that way?' he says. "Very Greek"
Sacramento is a long way from Po?ega, far removed from the simple life of Stojakovic's youth and the dangerous one of his early teens. Sometimes, when the game is an hour away and he's sitting in the locker room, Stojakovic recalls his boyhood. It's a strange thing—the idea that the same war that killed so many people also started his journey to the American dream. What if it had never happened? What if his parents had never had to move the family?
Peja thinks this one over. "I would work in the family supermarket," he says. "And I would probably be happy."