Mark Madsen was selected by the Lakers with the 29th overall pick in the first round following L.A.’s championship after the 1999-2000 season.
You know … the Mad Dog.
Easily one of the most likable players in the NBA (seriously … there isn’t a player or coach who isn’t feeling him), Dog went on to win two consecutive titles with the Lakers before signing with the Timberwolves for the 2003-04 season. We certainly all remember his post 2002-title parade dance and Spanish speech, right?
Well, Madsen was in Los Angeles with his Timberwolves on Friday night, and he sat down with us before L.A.’s 20-point win to talk about Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, his thoughts on the Lakers and more:
MT: What have you seen from Kobe this season, Dog?
Mark Madsen: A lot of people are talking about the race between Kobe and LeBron for MVP, but the one thing I know about Kobe is that he’s not concerned about that. It’s an individual award, and he’s only worried about winning a championship. He’s already done it three times in his career, and that most likely is his sole focus. From helping everyone on his team get better, to mentoring the young guys and pushing the older guys … There has always been a sense of accountability here in L.A., and it starts with Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. They have a great core of leadership when you think about Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom as well.
MT: You know Kobe better than many around the league; what stands out to you about him on on a personal level?
Madsen: When I was here in Los Angeles, the thing that really jumped out at me about Kobe was the size of his heart. He shows it on the court and off the court with his community involvement, and the way that he wants his teammates to succeed. I remember times when I played well, it seemed like Kobe was one of the happiest guys … He enjoys seeing the success of other people.
MT: What do you remember most about Phil Jackson?
Madsen: The thing about Phil is everyone knows about his psychological and philosophical approach he takes to basketball, but the biggest thing to me was that Phil really instills a lot of confidence in his players. I remember one time when we were in the Warrior Room, which is basically the film room; Shaq’s there, Kobe’s there, and Phil said: “Every single man in this room has a unique set of skills that can help us win basketball games.” So from one to 15, he made you feel like you could really go out there and impact the game, so you played with tremendous confidence under Phil. Also, if you mess up, he’s going to call you out.
MT: What about an off the court memory with Phil?
Madsen: There was one time when he asked me if I was dating Larry King’s nanny. And at the time, I happened to attend church services with Larry King’s nanny, and we were good friends. Had it escalated to a dating stage yet? I don’t know, but somehow Phil knew what I was doing?
MT: So what did you say to Phil?
Madsen: Well you know, I was fighting for minutes, so I kept it a little bit vague. I wanted to make sure he knew that I was focused, that I wasn’t too worried about Larry King or being over at his house.
MT: Fair enough. The other guy on this current Lakers team with whom you played was Derek Fisher. What impresses you most about Fisher?
Madsen: Derek is a great leader. A great leader, both on and off the court. He’s the leader of the NBA Player’s Association, and really deals with a lot of the issues that impact us as players. We’re not just talking about contractual issues, but issues of arbitration, of fairness in disciplinary matters … Derek’s always available to the players and the union, and that’s a big responsibility. On the court, his play speaks for itself. He’s hitting big shots, he’s on the floor getting loose balls and he has a unique ability to come in from the three point line defensively and take basketballs away from people with his body.
MT: What are your thoughts on this Lakers team you’re about to face?
Madsen: Obviously when they lost Andrew Bynum, it took away another dominant post player alongside Pau Gasol, but I think Lamar Odom has stepped up to fill that role very well. He’s a guy that can play so many different positions, score, rebound, pass, and make other people better.
MT: What do the Lakers need to do to win a title?
Madsen: They probably looked at the game tape from the Finals last year, but no one was picking this team to get there last year. Phil and Kobe and everybody overachieved here, but I think any time you look at the tape after the fact it’s easy to find things that you can do better. One thing every team can always do better is play defense and transition defense, and I think they probably looked at those things and decided to shore them up, and clearly they’ve done a great job of that with the way they’re playing this season.
MT: Finally, Dog, what do you miss most about L.A.?
Madsen: You know what, that’s a tough question because I had three years of great memories here. But I have a new home now in Minnesota, and I’ve embraced the community there and it’s been really great to me. I love it out there, but you can’t forget something that culminated with championships. I’ll never forget being around guys like Kobe, Fisher or a Rick Fox, for example. You may not see everyone for a few years even, but when you do it’s almost like not a lot of time has passed.