EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Karl Malone's return to the basketball court 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, saying, "We'll have a better idea next week, when he's re-evaluated."
Divac was injured while making 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
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.