From the end of the bench, he has become a frequent starter at power forward, and Phil Jackson minutes before had said he could envision Madsen as his starter come mid-April, when the Lakers begin in earnest the defense of their three championships.
"I'm happy to be contributing in this way," Madsen said carefully. "I hope to always find a way to contribute."
Then he smiled. "I'm having a great time," he said.
He does things. He scored 12 points in 22 minutes Saturday in Milwaukee. He had seven rebounds in 23 minutes a week ago in Chicago. He often makes opponents uncomfortable, just by being him.
Madsen, at 6 feet 9, is undersized among power forwards in the Western Conference, but Jackson likes his aggressiveness and his feel for the offense. Enough so, that if the playoffs were to start today, Madsen could end up defending, in order, Tim Duncan, Chris Webber and Dirk Nowitzki, at least early. In the postseason, Robert Horry would carry the heavy minutes, particularly down the stretch.
But Madsen is giving Jackson a choice along the front line and, at the minimum, Samaki Walker, who has twice sprained the same ankle, recovery time.
"I prefer a guy that really feels good to the team he's playing with, that they can meld their talents around," Jackson said. "Mark really understands this offense and his ability to function perhaps as well as anybody in it. He can handle the ball, he can bring the ball up the court, he can do a lot more things than he's shown. We know his capabilities. We keep watching them emerge, like he's coming out from under a rock a little bit.
"His skeletal game is pretty raw and energetic when you first see it, but you know he's got more game than he's shown right now."
Quentin Richardson, who sat out Sunday's game because of a strained left knee, returned to the court Monday against the Lakers. He was one of several players available to interim Coach Dennis Johnson to check Bryant.
"I'm going," Richardson said beforehand. "I don't know how well it's going to go, but you've got to go in these types of games, don't you?"
Of facing Bryant, Richardson added, "He's the best right now. You've got to love playing against the best.... Kobe had 40 [points] in how many games in a row? [It was nine.] He's been killing everybody."
Staples Center and Aramark have initiated a designated driver program at the arena, in which nondrinkers will receive a free nonalcoholic beverage. The Lakers' Horry, Clipper Eric Piatkowski and Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton took part in a pregame news conference.