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Buss Has Confidence in Malone

Times Staff Writer

Teams will be lining up with offers for Karl Malone if he decides to play a 20th season, but Laker owner Jerry Buss said Sunday he was confident Malone would return to the Lakers, regardless of other proposals.

Malone, 41, had microfracture surgery on his right knee in June and is expected to decide in about a month whether he will play this season.

Malone’s agent recently said his client would prefer to stay in the Western Conference, which gained increased attention from teams such as San Antonio and Minnesota.

“I think every team in the league could use him and would want him.... He’s getting offers, probably two or three a day,” Buss said. “I am confident that if he plays, he’ll be a Laker. He has said that publicly in the papers, and he has told me that personally as well.”

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The Lakers could offer Malone $1.8 million, and the Spurs could offer the veterans’ minimum of $1.1 million. The Timberwolves would be in the neighborhood of the Lakers’ $1.8-million offer.

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Be it from Phil Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal or Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant has been criticized in recent months for various reasons, none of which Buss said he understood.

“It’s hard for me to read everybody’s portrayal of Kobe,” Buss said. “He’s just a different person than everybody seems to think. I admire him enormously for the fact that he’s just been quiet. Everybody else keeps talking and talking and talking, but he’s been terrific. He’s just sat back and said, ‘OK, I’ll let my play indicate what kind of a person I am.’ ”

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Buss said he and General Manager Mitch Kupchak were in agreement on all the moves made by the franchise last summer: “I think Mitch is terrific, absolutely terrific. Everything that has happened, we have been just absolutely allied, 100% on every one of those decisions.”


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