Karl Malone: "I'm going to push myself, but I don't want to be stupid"
Is "frustrated" the best way to describe your thoughts about the injury?
Karl Malone: Probably, but you've got about a week or whatever. It's kinda unknown. We'll give it a rest for a week and see, but their week is probably different than my week. So we'll see what happens.
Did it scare you?
KM: Yeah, you're not used to getting injured. Sometimes we think we are invincible. It's frustrating after a lot of years and not missing a lot of games. I guess the positive is that it's early on, and it's not the playoffs. Yeah, I came here for the regular season, but I also came here for the playoffs as well. It's just frustrating. You just expect to punch the clock every night.
How did you feel the next morning?
KM: I guess it's just one of those weeks. I'm sitting there in the doctor's office on the fourth floor. I'm looking and I'm like "damn, this building feels like its moving!" Hell, we were having an earthquake. What the hell?
Were you at least a little relieved that it was just a sprain and not a tear?
KM: Well, of course, but then you go from being relieved that it's a sprain and not a tear to being frustrated again because you still can't play. You talk to 10 different people and all 10 of them say you can't play. And I'm saying, "What you mean, I can't play?" It's just one of those things. I'll just deal with it. It's just another test. I had my share of them this summer. What don't break you makes you stronger, so hopefully I'll be a lot stronger after this.
When you heard the pop, did you fear the worst or were you thinking positive the whole time?
KM: No, I thought the worst because I never had that, and I know what I heard and I know my body. So I just figured the worst. The first thing I wanted to know was whether I could stretch my leg out. And I could and that's why I walked to the free throw line.
Three games is the best case scenario. Have you been told a worst case scenario?
KM: Yeah, and I don't want to talk about the worst case scenario. That was the first thing I said, "Don't tell me the best, tell me the worst." And I didn't like that.
That's been ruled out?
KM: Yeah, but the worst would be a month or two, and I don't like that. So I'll say 3-games. It's a fine line, being smart and playing through pain. I'm going to work my butt off because I want to be back with the guys, but I want to be smart as well. Magic kept saying over and over (Sunday) night when I'm back there running in the tunnel, "Just remember May and June, and not right now." But I don't accept that because I like to be out there. But I don't want to be out there hurting the team, and if I'm out there not capable of doing what I normally do, then I'm hurting the team. So we'll make a decision in about a week, I think.
Do you feel a week will be enough or do you not have any sense of that from what the doctors told you?
KM: Like the doctor told me, he said, "If a duck walked around that corner right now would you think that's a duck?" I said, "Yeah." And he was like, "Okay then, it's the same thing with me." And I believe him. I just have to be patient. I never question why things happen. It's one of those situations where you don't understand it. Things happen for a reason, I guess. I'm sure we'll get through this. My teammates have been real supportive, but it's still weird because no matter how many years you've been playing, when you're injured, you still don't feel a part of the team.
Did you say to yourself, 'why me?'
KM: I still believe in things happening for a reason. We don't understand it all the time, but we deal with it. The most important for me is to be smart, to get my therapy, to get my treatment, and try to get back as quickly as I can. I believe I will be back sooner than later, but when I sit there and watch it come over the television, I'm like, "Damn, they're talking about me!" And that's not what I like to see. I'm normally seeing that picture because I got suspended or something. It will be alright. I'm not going to do much. Just get treatment and continue to work out. I'm going to push myself, but I don't want to be stupid.
Can you do further damage to it?
KM: I could if someone hit it. That's what they (doctors) are concerned about. I don't know if I could myself, but if I was out there and the unknown happened, then, yeah.
Will you wear a brace or a pad when you come back?
KM: Absolutely not! Some people don't know what knee it is yet. So I'm not going to give them a big bulls eye there. No, I doubt very seriously that I will wear anything.
Have you ever felt this vulnerable physically?
What's that like?
KM: Reality set in that we are human. We sometimes feel like we are superhuman, and I still feel like that a little bit. But it's just a little chink in the armor right now.
Are you afraid of rushing back if the team is not playing well in your absence?
KM: I'll listen to (Gary) Vitti (Lakers Athletic Trainer) and the docs, and just be smart for once in my career when I shouldn't have played or whatever. So I'll do that and do whatever is in my powers to come back when I'm supposed to and not rush back. I've seen and heard when guys have come back too quick because of the pressure to get back out there. But that's not the case here. We've got other guys to step in. So I'll just be smart and get back when I'm supposed to.
Michael Eaves covers the NBA for FOX Sports West in Southern California. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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