Mailman shunning MRI for injury

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Karl Malone played 18 minutes in Game
3 of the NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night
despite the possibility he has a torn ligament in his right knee.

He missed 39 games during the regular season due to the same

Malone started and had five points and four rebounds in the Los
Angeles Lakers' 88-68 loss to Detroit, giving the Pistons a 2-1
lead. He came out of the game for good with 6:01 left in the third
quarter and the Lakers trailing 56-42.

"No matter what happened, when I put that uniform on, I've got
to be the best I can be," Malone said. "We didn't play well as a
team. We just didn't play well the whole night. They did."

Malone wore a brace, something he said Wednesday he didn't want
to do.

"I just kind of bit the bullet and did it," he said.

Malone said he planned on playing Sunday in Game 4.

"My goal is to do that," he said.

"First half, I was content with the way he played," Lakers
coach Phil Jackson said. "He looked like he was struggling out
there, I thought, in the second half. He gave us an effort, not
everything worked for him.

"The second half, I didn't think he got loose. He just didn't
get warmed up. The game was deteriorating quickly around him and we
had to have some pressure up court and I opted not to push him any

further than that. We were pleased with the effort he could give."

When asked if he could have played during the final 18 minutes
rather than sitting out, Malone said: "Probably not."

"Karl showed a lot of guts," teammate Shaquille O'Neal said.
"He's obviously hurt out there. He's limping up and down."

Malone was injured early in the Lakers' 99-91 overtime victory
in Game 2, but played on and had nine points and nine rebounds in
39 minutes.

He hurt himself early in the Western Conference finals against
Minnesota, and his knee was drained June 1 -- the day after the
Lakers eliminated the Timberwolves. He scored a career playoff-low
four points in Game 1 against the Pistons.

Malone has chosen not to undergo an MRI for an injury the Lakers
are calling a sprained medial collateral ligament. The team also
used that description when Malone originally injured the knee Dec.
21, though it turned out he had a torn ligament.

"No one has to tell me what injury I have. When you've had it
once before, it's a lot easier to say 'This is what that is.' I
don't think it's one of those situations where an MRI would do
anything for me," Malone said Thursday at the Lakers' morning
shootaround. "Remember last time it was a sprain? And it was a
tear. They're saying it's a sprain, so we'll say it's a sprain.
It's a hell of a sprain."

When asked after the game if he would get any better in the
three days between Games 3 and 4, Malone said he had an injury
previously that took him three months to recover from.

Malone, the second-leading scorer in NBA history, joined the
Lakers last summer in search of his first championship following 18
years with the Utah Jazz. He reached the finals twice with the
Jazz, in 1997 and 1998, but they lost to the Chicago Bulls both

He limped slightly through the Lakers' pregame layup drill. He
seemed to play without a great deal of pain, but couldn't give his

Malone played in 1,434 of a possible 1,444 regular-season games
with the Jazz.