Lakers' success hinges on Malone's health

Updated: March 5, 2004, 10:05 AM ET
By By Terry Brown | NBA Insider
If Karl Malone returns Monday to exact vengeance on a Utah Jazz franchise that he played with for 18 seasons, then he and the Lakers will have 20 games to get it together.

And everyone is asking if that is enough time to salvage a season marked by injury, in fighting and a rape case against Kobe Bryant that won't go away anytime soon.

"Despite all that's going on, my main contention is that 99 percent of it is injury-related," general manager Mitch Kupchak said in the L.A. Daily News. "The problems as far as players speaking out, I think a lot of it is due to frustration -- frustration over not winning as many games as we hoped to win. If we can get this group back together and have them play together for close to a month, then we have to feel fortunate."