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Madsen Leaves a Mark


NEW ORLEANS — Mark Madsen, the rookie from Stanford, crumpled the box score and tossed it into the bottom of his locker.

He turned to leave, to put behind him this mass of Laker turnovers and clanks and defensive blunders, but thought better of it. So he retrieved the wadded paper, smoothed it out and put it into his duffel bag.

Unsightly as it was, preseason as it was, it remained his first NBA game.

"I was more than a little nervous," Madsen admitted.

The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Lakers, 103-90, Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena, where a capacity crowd of 16,994 fawned over Shaquille O'Neal's every gesture, including the short welcome-to-the-game speech he gave on the public address system.

Just before Madsen made his first appearance, O'Neal had a message for him as well. Noting Madsen's anxiety, he whispered, "Just go in and play hard. I don't care if you get a flagrant foul and you get suspended. If you get suspended, I'll fly back home with you and we'll have dinner with your parents."

On the night the Lakers returned to a real basketball court, Coach Phil Jackson went ahead and used up all of the sighs that Vice President Al Gore said he would stifle in future debates.

Jackson had occasion for them. Not that Gore didn't, of course. But, Gore wasn't down, 63-36, at halftime either.

Starting point guard Ron Harper didn't dress, a "DNP-waiting for when this stuff counts" on the unofficial scorer's sheet. He could play tonight, when the Lakers play Washington in Memphis, Tenn.

As a whole, the first unit looked like it has for much of camp's first week, which is to say, pacing itself. O'Neal missed several in-close shots and everyone else missed from outside.

Jackson shrugged. He liked what he saw in Madsen, who scored six points and took two rebounds in 17 minutes. Guard Mike Penberthy, battling Tyronn Lue for the roster spot left open by Derek Fisher's injury, played 20 minutes, made two-of-three three-pointers and scored 12 points. Stanislav Medvedenko played eight decent minutes.

In mid-October, nobody's really counting, anyway. Last year, Kobe Bryant broke his hand in the first exhibition game. That didn't happen this time. He scored 19 and left town unharmed.

"Right now, we're learning how to play together with different groups of guys," Jackson said. "That's it."

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