Madsen's Work Ethic Rates with Laker Teammates
June 4, 2001
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) - Mark Madsen has gone from playing major minutesduring a standout career at Stanford to being mostly bench-bound with the LosAngeles Lakers.
He couldn't be happier.
'I love it,' he said. 'I feel real fortunate.'
Making Madsen's rookie season sweeter is the fact that he'll be playing fora championship for the first time since high school when the Lakers open theNBA Finals on Wednesday night against Philadelphia.
'In high school, we made it to the state finals one year and we lost,' hesaid. 'In college, we made it to the Final Four but we never competed for thechampionship.
'I look at guys like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, these arephenomenal players, some of the greatest players ever, and they haven't won achampionship.'
The Lakers selected Madsen, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward, as the 29th pickin the first round of the NBA draft. He quickly won over his teammates andcoaches with a work ethic and intensity that matches his fifth-grade nicknameof 'Mad Dog.'
'I've been nothing but impressed from Day One in meeting him,' forwardRick Fox said. 'He has a work ethic every rookie should have. I hate callinghim a throwback. Hopefully, he's part of a new breed.'
Madsen has appeared, albeit briefly, in all 11 playoff games. He's averaged4.1 minutes, scored five points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out fourassists.
'He has some limitations because of his size,' assistant coach Bill Bertkasaid. 'I think he can overcome them. His teammates just love the guy for theway he is, he gives no quarter. He's going to be a (Kurt) Rambis-type player, Ithink he'll help us a lot.'
Enthusiasm doesn't quite describe Madsen's demeanor upon being subbed intogames that have all but been decided. He hustles onto the court and immediatelytries to grab a rebound or block a shot.
If he's successful or even manages to score, fans cheer wildly and chantthat catchy nickname.
'It gives me a huge lift,' he said. 'I feed off the fans. I'm an energyplayer. When I feel the crowd, I just want to go in there and make a play.'
Shaquille O'Neal has taken a particular liking to Madsen, who calls O'Neal'kind of like an older brother, a calming influence.'
Madsen remembers his first NBA game, when O'Neal came out and a nervousMadsen entered as a substitute before a timeout.
'He put his arm around me and said, `Mark, just go in there, get a coupleflagrant fouls, get kicked out of the game. I'll get suspended, I'll fly hometo your house and I'll take your parents out to dinner,'' Madsen said.
O'Neal got Madsen to laugh and forget his rookie nerves.
'Our relationship has evolved from things like that to now he demands a lotof me in practice and in games,' Madsen said. 'If I'm not giving my fulleffort, he's going to let me know.'
Not that Madsen loafs often. On the bench, he's animated and tuned to theaction despite sitting most of the time.
He still remembers something his high school coach in Northern Californiatold him: The character of a basketball team can be measured by watching themen on the bench.
'I try to be a supportive guy. If I see things going on in the game, I'mgoing to say something to my teammates and even to the coaches,' he said.'I'm going to give enthusiasm because guys on the court appreciate that andthat's what I offer.'
Knowing he's rarely going to play, Madsen applies his boundless energy tothings the public never sees like practice, running drills and 1-on1 games.
'I get my enjoyment from other ways now,' he said. 'I take a lot ofenjoyment in practice and training. I take a lot of enjoyment in myteammates.'
As the Lakers resume their bid to go undefeated in the playoffs and win asecond consecutive NBA title, Madsen marvels at his good luck in being part ofit all.
'I just kind of stepped onto a freight train with Shaq, Kobe and RickFox,' he said. 'And we're rolling.'