NBA Malone ponders return

The league's second leading all-time scorer may make a decision soon.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- If Karl Malone decides to play again, it probably will be for the San Antonio Spurs, his agent said Monday.
Malone will make an announcement about his future before the All-Star break. The All-Star game is Feb. 20 in Denver.
"If he would choose to play, the likeliest candidate would be the Spurs, which is a team he almost played for a year and a half ago," Dwight Manley said. "He's already basically retired because he's not playing. That would be a big step for him, to essentially come out of quasi-retirement and play.
"There are two possibilities. He's leaned toward staying where he already is. Where he goes forward, only he knows. He'll say that real soon. I'm not in the job of speculating. It's out of my hands. It's going to be what it's going to be."
Healthy and fit
Manley said that Malone, who underwent knee surgery last summer, is healthy and works out every day, but has not been playing basketball.
The 41-year-old Malone is the second-leading scorer in NBA history, 1,459 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Malone played 18 seasons for Utah before joining the Lakers for the 2003-2004 season at a greatly reduced salary, saying he wanted to win a championship before retirement.
He missed 39 games last season after injuring his right knee, and was hurt again during the playoffs, missing the last three games of the NBA Finals, all of which the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons.
Malone opted out of his $1.65 million contract following last season, making him a free agent. He and his family live in nearby Newport Beach.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said last Thursday he hadn't spoken with Malone since the Christmas holidays, but made it clear the Spurs were interested in his services.
"He's got to decide if he wants to play, if the juice is there," Popovich said before the Spurs beat the Los Angeles Lakers 103-91.
"He's somebody we've been interested in for a couple of years. He's a leader -- he's got the whole package. I thought he did a great job in the playoffs last year."
Malone was a key factor in the Lakers' victories over the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals and the Minnesota Timberwolves in the conference finals.
Manley said in October that his client wasn't ready to play, but if he returned, it would only be with the Lakers.
That changed late last year after Malone was accused by Kobe Bryant of making a pass at his wife. Malone, through Manley, denied the accusation and apologized to Bryant and his wife for any remarks she might have considered inappropriate.

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