August 19, 2013 |

Good Laker News: Mark Madsen Is Back

Good Laker News: Mark Madsen Is Back

There’s been a lot of negative news about the Lakers in the recent past.

The team hasn’t done much in the playoffs the last three years, Kobe Bryant has been injured and Dwight Howard has left to play for Houston.

But here’s some good news. Mark Madsen is back.

Madsen was the Lakers’ first round draft choice in 2000. The 6-foot-8 forward from Stanford was a member of two Laker championship teams although he didn’t play a lot or compile impressive statistics.

He was a tireless worker and a great teammate. He was so well appreciated that he lasted in the NBA for nine years – three with the Lakers and six with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“When I was a rookie Kobe told me I could have a long career in the league because I worked so hard,” Madsen said. “I appreciate the advice he gave me.”

Most recently, Madsen was an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz’ Development League team, then an assistant at Stanford last season.

This summer he was hired to coach the Lakers’ Development League team, the D-Fenders, but then General Manager Mitch Kupchak asked if he’d prefer to become the Lakers’ Player Development man, sharing that role with Larry Lewis.

Madsen weighed the merits of becoming a head coach at a lower level or being with the Lakers full-time. He decided to work on Laker head coach Mike D’Antoni’s staff.

Now he’ll be with the Lakers full time, home and away and he’ll work with players to improve specific skills.

What I like best is he’ll be a big help to young players and a breath of fresh air to an organization that has been gasping for it.

What do I mean?

Mike Trudell, who writes for Lakers.com, asked Madsen if there’s anyone in the NBA who doesn’t like him.

Madsen struggled with his answer but I interjected mine. If there’s someone who doesn’t like Madsen I haven’t met the person during the last 20 years.

Last week I went to the Lakers’ training facility in El Segundo to meet with Madsen, who I covered when he played for the team.

I was impressed with his optimism and I have no doubt he’ll work well with players – any who really want to improve their game.

We talked about experiences we shared 10 years ago.

I knew one story but asked him to tell it again because I knew we’d both get a good laugh.

“It was my first day as a Laker after I’d been drafted and I was driving an old jalopy,’ he said. ‘You see, I hadn’t received my first paycheck yet.

“Shaq arrived about five minutes later and asked who brought that car into the Staples Center parking lot.

“I volunteered that it was mine. He said OK, we’ll go looking for cars tomorrow.

“Actually it was a week later but we did pick one out. Shaq wanted to make the down payment but I told him it wasn’t necessary. I could afford it by then.”

I believe the story because I know Shaq O’Neal is a generous man. And I recalled that when a police car was wrecked during a celebration of a Laker championship years later O’Neal paid for a new one.

Madsen won’t score a point or get a rebound for the Lakers this season but his presence is a step in the right direction for a franchise trying to restore its former greatness.

Maybe it’s a small step but definitely positive news.

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