Karl Malone’s first return trip to Utah will have to be put on hold.
Malone, who spent the first 18 seasons of his career with the Jazz, signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent last summer.
However, when the Lakers make their first appearance in Salt Lake City, Malone will not even be in the building. Instead he will remain in Los Angeles to receive treatment on a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
The injury has already cost Malone 15 games, and he could be out until the All-Star break. The Lakers’ next trip to Utah is on March 8.
“Dealing with the injury and dealing with the return—and not being able to play—was putting too much on,” said Dwight Manley, Malone’s agent. “He’d rather recuperate and avoid a lot of the hoopla.”
The short-handed Lakers have lost three straight and four of five. They have also lost their last nine road games, their longest skid since dropping 10 in a row in 1963-64.
Devean George scored a season-high 24 points Thursday, but the Lakers could not keep up with the Dallas Mavericks in a 106-87 loss. They also lost rookie forward Brian Cook, who broke his right pinkie and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” veteran Bryon Russell said of the team’s frequent injuries.
As the Lakers try to overcome their injuries, the Jazz problems of their own.
Utah, which has not been below .500 all season, has dropped four straight and slipped to 21-21 with a 93-82 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
Leading scorer Andrei Kirilenko has missed the past three games with a sprained right ankle, and the injury-riddled Jazz used their 11th different starting lineup Friday.