EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Karl Malone's return to the NBA could be months away -- if he comes back at all.
The Los Angeles Lakers said Friday they don't know if the 41-year-old forward will play this season. Malone, who had surgery on his right knee at the end of June, is a free agent and reportedly is being pursued by several teams.
"Our understanding is he's not going to be ready to return for
a couple months," Lakers spokesman John Black said. "We're
hopeful he does decide to play another season and he decides to
play for us."
Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, refused comment. In July, he
disputed reports that Malone had decided to retire. The
second-leading scorer in NBA history, Malone played 18 seasons with
the Utah Jazz before joining the Lakers last summer.
Los Angeles will also be without center Vlade Divac for a while.
He has a herniated disc in his lower back and is not expected to be
ready when training camp begins Oct. 5.
Black said it's too early to know when Divac can return. "We'll
have a better idea next week, when he's re-evaluated."
Divac hurt himself on a spin move during an informal workout at
the Lakers' training facility earlier in the week. Tests Thursday
revealed the extent of the injury.
The Lakers will train at the University of San Diego for about
10 days. Their first preseason game is Oct. 12 against the Seattle
SuperSonics in Anaheim.
Divac, 36, signed a two-year contract in July that will
reportedly pay him $4.9 million this season. He began his career
with the Lakers in 1989 as the 26th overall pick in the NBA draft
and played seven seasons in Los Angeles before being traded to
Charlotte in the summer of 1996 for the rights to Kobe Bryant.
Divac played for the Sacramento Kings the past six years,
averaging 9.9 points in each of the past two seasons. The Lakers
signed him after trading center Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler.