Los Angeles Lakers forward Karl Malone will not return to the US Olympic qualifying team in Puerto Rico, because of the death of his mother.

Malone had previously planned to return to to the team, but felt it was more important to stay with his family after the sudden death of his mother.
“It was more important for him to be with his family and we all understand that,” US coach Larry Brown said. “Hopefully he’ll be part of our team in 2004 if we’re lucky enough to qualify.”

Should the US team qualify for the 2004 Olympic games, by attaining one of the three berths available from the qualifying tournament, the “Mailman” would retain his spot on that team, as would Laker guard Kobe Bryant.

New Jersey Nets forward Kenyon Martin was added to the US roster to replace Malone.

News Link – Yahoo! – “Malone will miss Puerto Rico tournament”