Peja won't play for Serbia Montenegro, coach says

BELGRADE, Serbia Montenegro -- Defending champion
Serbia Montenegro will be without star forward Peja Stojakovic
at the 2006 World Championships in Japan this summer, his coach
told a newspaper.

Stojakovic, who finished the 2005-06 season with the Indiana
Pacers, averaged 18.8 points in the 2002 World Championships
for Yugoslavia, which stunned Team USA and went on to defeat
Argentina in overtime for the title.

However, the former NBA All-Star has not played internationally
the last three summers.

New Serbia Montenegro coach Dragan Sakota said in Novosti, a
Belgrade newspaper, that the sharpshooter will not be in Japan.

"He couldn't refuse my call as I didn't call him at all," said
Sakota, who also coaches Red Star Belgrade. "The story about
his presence in Japan started two months ago when we spoke on
the subject.

"But, as I have said, the results are not the priority at this
World Championship; working on a new, youthful team is. It will
be different for the European Championship in 2007, when we
will add some of our big names. That is what I have told

Stojakovic is not the only big name skipping the event for the
perennial power, which has fallen on some uncharacteristic hard
times of late. Both NBA forward Zeljko Rebraca and European
star forward Dejan Bodiroga also will not be on the roster.

"I am really confused why [Stojakovic] is always the subject of
talks here as Rebraca and Bodiroga won't play in Japan, either,"
Sakota said.

Sakota was tight-lipped on whether the country's other NBA stars
such as Marko Jaric, Vladimir Radmanovic and Nenad Krstic would
take part.

"I didn't say a word on them, right? That's because we'll have
to wait a bit and see if they play in Japan," the coach said.
"A full list of the names of the players I want to be in our
squad this summer will be sent to the federation shortly and
soon after we will announce it officially."

Since its world title in 2002, Serbia Montenegro has not lived
up to its billing. It failed to get out of group play in the
2004 Olympics and Eurobasket 2005 despite a roster stacked with
stars as it was dragged down by chemistry issues.

However, the Serbs received one of four wild cards into the
24-team World Championships, which begins in August. They are
in Group A with Olympic champions Argentina, France, Nigeria,
Venezuela and Lebanon.