Stojakovic opts out of deal to become free agent

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers forward Peja Stojakovic opted out of the final year of his contract on Tuesday but wants to return to the team.

Stojakovic took advantage of the early termination clause in his six-year deal and became a free agent in hopes of getting a raise and long-term contract, his agent said.

His current deal would have paid him more than $8.1 million next season.

Stojakovic came to Indiana from Sacramento in a midseason trade for troubled player Ron Artest. Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh and president of basketball operations Larry Bird knew Stojakovic would test the market.

"It was nothing unexpected," agent David Bauman said. "We
just had to go through the formal process of canceling the last
year of the deal. Larry and Donnie understood when they traded for
him that he was going to exercise his early termination option."

Pacers officials have said re-signing Stojakovic is a priority, but calls to team officials Tuesday were not immediately returned. Stojakovic wants to play for the Pacers, but he will consider a

"We're going to listen to other teams and what they have to
offer [monetarily], as well as playing time and chances at a
championship," Bauman said.

The free agent negotiating period begins July 1, and teams can start signing players July 12. The Pacers can sign Stojakovic for
up to six years, while other teams can sign him for five.

Stojakovic averaged 19.5 points and shot 46 percent from the field in 40 games with the Pacers. He missed four of the six
playoff games against the New Jersey Nets with a right knee injury,
but Bauman says the knee has healed. The Pacers lost each game he
didn't play.