Karl Malone has missed only 11 games during his 18-year career.
However, the 40-year-old Malone will miss at least the Los Angeles Lakers’ next three games, starting with this one at Golden State, because of a sprained ligament in his right knee.
Malone, second on the NBA’s career scoring list, was injured four minutes intoSunday night’s 107-101 victory over Phoenix when he was fouled by Scott Williams.
Malone said afterward he heard something pop. However, an MRI examination Monday morning revealed it was only a sprain—much better than it could have been.
“It is good news. I think it’s really good news,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after practice. “We have to look at it that way.”
Lakers spokesman John Black said Malone will be re-evaluated next Monday.
Malone has played in 1,458 regular-season games while missing only 11—six because of injury or illness, and five due to suspension.
In addition to this game, he will also miss the Lakers’ game on Christmas Day against Houston and Sunday night’s contest against Boston.
Malone is averaging 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 24 games this season—his first with the Lakers after 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz.
“We’re just happy that it’s not too serious,” teammate Kobe Bryant said. “We have to have guys come off the bench and make significant contributions.”
The Warriors return home after a disappointing road trip that saw them split four games on the East Coast.
“The longer road trip the harder it is to sustain the effort,” said Warriors coach Eric Musselman, whose team opened the swing with victories at New York and Atlanta before getting swept in Florida by Orlando and Miami.
“I thought we had great effort and great energy the first two games of the trip. The last two games, our energy level slipped.”
“If we play hard, we could have had this game,” Richardson said. “Miami was the aggressor and when you are, you will win.”
STANDINGS (through Dec. 21): Lakers - 1st place (tied), Pacific Division. Warriors - 3rd place (tied), 8 GB, Pacific Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Lakers - F Devean George, F Stanislav Medvedenko, C Shaquille O’Neal, G Bryant, G Payton. Warriors - F Mike Dunleavy, F Clifford Robinson, C Erick Dampier, G Nick Van Exel, G Richardson.
TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - Bryant, 21.2 ppg; O’Neal, 12 rpg; Payton, 6.3 apg. Warriors - Richardson, 18 ppg; Dampier, 11.8 rpg; Van Exel, 5.8 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Lakers, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 2; Lakers, 87-72. At Los Angeles, Bryant scored 21 points to lead the Lakers in their home opener. Robinson led the Warriors with 19 points. Calbert Cheaney added 17 points and Dampier had a career-high 23 rebounds.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lakers - 6-4 on the road; Warriors - 8-5 at home.