Malone might yet still wait out retirement

Pro Basketball

July 04, 2004|By LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

LOS ANGELES - There are days when Karl Malone's outlook is dictated by emotion and days when his future is beholden to his health. When those elements conspired recently, Malone took a deep breath and decided his basketball career was over.

The magnetic resonance imaging of his right knee seemed to tell him as much, and when Malone considered the chaos engulfing the Los Angeles Lakers, he figured it was time to retire. So he told friends exactly that while attending a memorial for Bobbye Sloan - the wife of Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan - last week in McLeansboro, Ill.

But Malone's outlook changed a few days later when doctors, performing an arthroscopic procedure, discovered the knee was in better shape than believed and could be 100 percent again.

Retirement remains a possibility but not an inevitability, he said Friday.

"I'm very upbeat," said Malone, who turns 41 on July 24. "I'm not saying I'm definitely going to play. But I'm saying I'm not definitely going to retire either."

He just might play somewhere else. Malone is a free agent, and NBA sources say he is again being recruited by the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. Both teams lobbied hard to sign Malone last summer before he joined the Lakers.

Malone declined to comment on other teams but said he is concerned about the Lakers' chaotic state.

Coach Phil Jackson, who had a close relationship with Malone, is gone. Kobe Bryant is a free agent and flirting with the Los Angeles Clippers. Shaquille O'Neal is furious and demanding a trade.

"I came here because of Kobe and Shaq," he said. "I didn't come here just for Kobe, I didn't come here just for Shaq. I came here for both of those guys. ...

"[If] I have to choose between those two guys, I will retire. Or I can go somewhere else."

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