During NBA Playoffs 2002, we asked reserve forward Mark Madsen to give us the inside scoop on the Lakers by answering fan questions from time to time. With the frenzied pace of the seven-game series between the Lakers and the Kings, he didn't have a chance to sit down and give them some thought until now. But the second-year Stanford product had plenty to say about the Western Conference Finals, his teammates and his approach to the game, so we wanted to share his answers.

How hard/easy has it been coming back for another championship, are the goals for the team the same or do they evolve with every championship?
Victoria, Australia

Madsen: Greg, being the defending champion brings a lot with it. Our goal ever since I arrived in LA two years ago has been to "be playing in June" for the championship. Rick Fox talks about "preparing for June" all the time. I think having this as a goal and as an expectation helps us try to always play to a high standard. Really, the standard of playing hard and with heart is set by Kobe and Shaq. Anytime another team plays us we know that they are totally rested, prepared, and they have us fully scouted. Because we're the champions we always have to be ready to take on all comers. We enjoy that challenge.

Hey Maddog, What do you think about Kobe? Is he a good person to hang around with after the games? Does he go out for a guys' night out?
La Puente, Calif.

Madsen: Kobe is a unique talent because in addition to being one of the most athletic players in the world, he's also worked to become one of the most skilled. If someone drops a pass he'll say "I'm going to come to you again." If you miss a shot he'll say "Keep shooting that thing." Kobe has one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen. He plays as hard in practice as he does in game. He's a real class act. Off the court, Kobe is a great teammate. He'll go out to dinner on the road with teammates or friends and is friendly with the many fans that come up. Sometimes it gets overwhelming and his bodyguards have to keep bunches of people away, but whenever he can he'll take the time to talk to a fan. On the court, he plays hard and clean and no one wants to win more than he does. On the team plane and the bus he's easygoing and likes to crack jokes and have a good time.

Mark, when you play the Kings in the Western Conference Finals, how will you and your team have to play to beat them?
Beaverton, Ore.

Madsen: I got your question a little late Mike, but I wanted to say a few things about the Sacramento series. What a great bunch of games. Robert Horry and I were talking (our lockers are right next to each other at Staples) and we had just lost game three to go down 2-1. Robert looked at me and said, "It doesn't matter if we go down 3-1 we can still win." Then the very next game it was Robert who hit the huge three pointer at the buzzer to give us the win. Sacramento is one of the best teams I've ever seen at any level. Give them credit because they played with heart, intelligence, and with desire. At the end of the series when both teams were leaving the court and we had won, there was just a lot of respect between both of the teams. We'll be looking forward to continuing the rivalry next year.

I am a Laker fan through and through. And what I admire the most about you is your extreme spirit and support of your teammates. You also always manage to have a fire and an intensity on the court as well. They don't call you "Mad Dog" for nothing! What is it like to be a part of such a top-notch team? What do you think your biggest impact is on the Lakers as a whole? 3PEAT ALL THE WAY!
Irvine, Calif.

Madsen: Thanks Lizzy for the email! My high school coach, John Raynor, used to always say that to be able to play basketball is a privilege, not a right. If that's true (and it is), then I would say that playing for the Lakers is every basketball players dream. We're very close as a group and we get along with one another. Shaq had a birthday party this year at his house and he not only invited the players, but he invited their families. I went with my Mom and Grandmother who were both in town. B. Shaw was there with his wife and mother-in-law. A lot of other guys came and had a great time. I think one way that I can help the team is keeping the intensity high in games and practices. I always to try to make a contribution in some way. If it's giving energy on the court, I'll do it. If it's giving energy from the bench I'll do it. Team success is always the most important.

It's really great to see you doing so well in the NBA. It's been a long time since watching you on the floor at SRVHS. Anyway, I was wondering what it's like at practices between playoff games. What kind of paces does Coach Jackson put the team through during the week?
New York

Madsen: I remember one time Shaq told me that Phil knows when to practice light and when to go hard. Phil really believes in being in shape and being skilled. If you've got those two things and you can run the triangle, you'll thrive in this system. A typical practice day will be coming in at 10am and lifting weights for about an hour then working on the triangle execution and other transition/defensive drills, then finally he'll let us play some five-on-five and he'll be the ref. One time it was the end of practice and we were all gathered together talking and Phil said, "We've had a good practice and the first person that can make a half court shot gets $100." Half of the guys ran to the ball rack and started shooting until someone nailed it. I can't remember who won, maybe Robert. Phil payed the $100 with money collected from team fines. (Fines for certain mistakes in games, or being late to the bus or practice).

When you guys "three-peat" what dance do you have in store for us Lakers fans?
Augusta, Ark.

Madsen: Rose, I'm laughing pretty hard right now; your question is pretty funny. The dance last year just sort of happened. Believe it or not that's the way I normally always dance. I took a ballroom class and a swing dance class when I was at Stanford, so maybe what I did had some of those elements and they didn't quite fit with Shaq's rap song that he had written and played that day. As far as this year--I'm not really sure what will happen--if we win, I'll just be there enjoying the moment and if I feel the rhythm again, I"ll let the moves flow. :)

Hello, Mark! I've been a Lakers fan since Magic first came in the league. Does Magic ever come in to the locker room or sit on the bench and talk to you guys? Go LA!!!!
Richmond, Va.

Madsen: Magic sits right next to our bench during most of the home games and talks to a lot of the guys individually throughout the year. I played with him a little one summer in pickup games at UCLA and just from being on the court with him I learned quite a bit. Magic has done so much for the city of LA with his philanthropic interests and taking businesses to areas that need them. We were at a community event this year for kids and when I left he told me he wanted to work with me on the hook shot this summer. There is no way to measure how much he means to the Lakers; a lot of the things he does are behind the scenes and giving advice to players.

It seems that Phil (Jackson) is asleep have the time of the Lakers games... What is it that he does that seems to make everything work out in games regardless of the current situation? PS -- Your energy and enthusiasm on and off the court are a big reason why I still love the Lakers organization. Keep it up!
Los Angeles

Madsen: Steve thanks for the kind words. When I first got to the Lakers, I asked Gary Vitti (our trainer who has been here almost 20 years) what made Phil such a great coach. Vitti told me that when something goes wrong Phil doesn't let it get to him; he keeps his head. I think sometimes when something goes wrong on the court young coaches want to immediately call a timeout to show that they're upset; they want to let the players know something went wrong. I don't thing Phil feels that pressure. In my two years with him I've seen him in all kinds of situations and he's always pretty calm. I'm sure there are different reasons why he's been so successful, but I know a couple of things. Phil has a tremendous knowledge of the game. He was a player in this league for a number of years has coached at many different levels. Both he and Tex Winter (the walking encyclopedia of basketball) talk about the game all the time. The players like Phil and listen to him and that right there might be one of the biggest things.