EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Karl Malone's return to the NBA could be months away — if he comes back at all.

The Los Angeles Lakers said Friday they don't know if the 41-year-old forward will play this season. Malone, who had surgery on his right knee at the end of June, is a free agent and reportedly is being pursued by several teams.

"Our understanding is he's not going to be ready to return for a couple months," Lakers spokesman John Black said. "We're hopeful he does decide to play another season and he decides to play for us."

Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, refused comment. In July, he disputed reports that Malone had decided to retire. The second-leading scorer in NBA history, Malone played 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz before joining the Lakers last summer.

Los Angeles will also be without center Vlade Divac for a while. He has a herniated disc in his lower back and is not expected to be ready when training camp begins Oct. 5.