Buried on bench this season, Madsen hopes to get playing time and tries to be positive

Madsen has appeared in just 15 of Minnesota’s first 62 games.

>MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Enthusiasm and Mark Madsen are inseparable, like the pick and roll.

Madsen’s energy-fueled, low-scoring career has plenty of indelible images. Start with that over-caffeinated victory dance he did during the Los Angeles Lakers championship celebration as a rookie in 2001. Don’t forget the way he tried to muscle around in the post against oversized former teammate Shaquille O’Neal with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2004 Western Conference Finals.

Then, in just about every game this season, there have been the eager leaps of encouragement off the bench to backslap his teammates exiting the floor at a timeout.

Playing time has been sparse for Madsen and the other veterans left on this renovated team. Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner and Michael Doleac are also resigned to mentoring and cheerleading roles while the Wolves evaluate their young guys for the future and quietly ponder a top pick in the draft lottery.

What sets Madsen apart is his unique niche as a “hustle” player more valuable for his work ethic, attitude and willingness to do the dirty jobs than for any of the points or rebounds he’s accumulated in eight years in the NBA. Though the 6-foot-9 Madsen was a first-round pick out of Stanford, he has averaged only 2.2 points and 2.6 rebounds over 429 career games.

Because he’s so upbeat, it would be easy for the Timberwolves to take his presence for granted and forget about his feelings. Coach Randy Wittman had made a point to not let that happen.

“That’s my job, to keep talking to him and provide the understanding that our belief in him is still there,” Wittman said.

Before the Timberwolves hosted the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, Madsen appeared in 15 of Minnesota’s first 62 games.

He got the dreaded DNP-CD – boxscore speak for “Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision” – 24 times. He was on the inactive list for 23 games, the first eight of those while recovering from August shoulder surgery.

“To be honest, it’s hard,” Madsen said. “I think every NBA player wants to be out there preparing to play 48 minutes, and that’s the way I am. And so quite frankly, I’m not happy. I’m not happy I’m not playing. But it’s a situation where coach Wittman has made his expectation clear to me individually, and he’s told me to be patient and to always be ready and to find a way to help the team in other ways.”