After having to admit that he again poured himself into his game over the summer--thousands of jumpers, miles with a new track coach, tons on the squat rack--Mark Madsen stood at the other end of that work, smiled humbly, and said he'd accept whatever came next.
"I honestly don't think a whole lot about it," he said after Wednesday's Laker practice. "Either way, it's going to be a positive. I think good things will happen."
Going on three years out of Stanford, Madsen is in the final guaranteed season of his rookie contract. The Lakers will decide by the end of training camp whether to exercise next season's option for nearly $1.5 million.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he had not reached a conclusion, though in consecutive falls the club had declined similar options for Tyronn Lue and Devean George. The game's dicey economy might suggest the same fate for Madsen.
In that case, Madsen, whose spirited play and engaging personality have made him a favorite among fans, teammates and media, could return as a free agent, as George did this summer.
George will earn more than every Laker but Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Robert Horry and Phil Jackson this season. And while Jackson said he'd like to see George handle pressure situations--such as the playoffs--better, he also does not expect a different player.
"Devean was paid because he produced," Jackson said. "That's the way we should pay players in the NBA, on production. His role shouldn't have to change at all. We didn't pay him on potential. We know what he can do and believe that what he did last year is no fluke."
O'Neal spent the latter part of Wednesday's practice sitting on an exercise ball, grappling with Kurt Rambis and shadow-boxing Samaki Walker. Recovering from Sept. 11 surgery, he's running out of things to do.
Alvin Gentry was asked to transform the Clippers from losers to playoff contenders when he was hired as coach in the summer of 2000. The Clippers won 31 games in 2000-01, up from 15 the season before he was hired. They won 39 games last season, their best record in a decade.
"If we're healthy, we can be a playoff team," Gentry said on the second day of the Clippers' training camp at Palm Desert. "I think our players expect us to be a playoff team."
The Clippers haven't participated in the playoffs since losing to the Utah Jazz in three games in the opening round of the 1997 postseason. There has been some thought that Gentry's job could be in jeopardy if the Clippers don't reach the playoffs, particularly since his contract expires at season's end.
"If you're asking me if I worry if we don't make the playoffs that I'll be fired, the answer is, no," Gentry said. "My job is to make [the Clippers] play unselfishly, make them play hard. If I do that and it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out.
"I'm worried about how to fit Andre Miller into our team. I'm trying to get Chris Wilcox to develop. I'm wondering if we can get Michael [Olowokandi] playing at the same level he did at the end of last season. I don't worry about my contract because I have no control over it."