Monday, May 25, 2009

Stojakovic's future is unclear

It is unlikely the Hornets can find a team willing to trade for starting small forward Peja Stojakovic, who has back problems and is guaranteed $29.5 million over the next two seasons. But they could negotiate a buyout.

If an agreement could be reached, only Stojakovic's buyout would count against the cap the next two seasons, not his salary.

Without a buyout, Stojakovic is owed $14.2 million next season and $15.3 million in 2010-11. In the final year of Stojakovic's deal, he has an early termination option clause in which he could exercise to become a free agent. If he does not, he would still be on the books to collect $15.3 million. Early termination options are available on contracts that are at least five years in length, and a player cannot exercise the clause until after the fourth year of the contract.

Stojakovic, who missed 20 games this season because of back spasms, will have the highest salary on the Hornets' payroll next season.

Another possibility is that Stojakovic could be forced to retire because of back problems. He had season-ending surgery to remove a disk fragment in 2006. If he retired and a league-appointed physician confirmed he was unfit to play, the Hornets would still have to absorb Stojakovic's salary for the 2009-10 season. But the Hornets could apply for salary cap relief and Stojakovic's salary would taken off the books the next season.

If Stojakovic was to prove the doctors wrong and resume his career, his salary would return on the Hornets' books if he plays in 10 games, including those played in the preseason.

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