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Bryant, Lakers at a loss after goring by Bulls

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Bryant, Lakers at a loss after goring by Bulls

CHICAGO (AP) Off target all night, Kobe Bryant sure was on point when it was over.

His frustration stood out like a breakaway dunk, his comments sharper than any shot he took, after the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Chicago Bulls 95-83 Monday night. The Lakers have lost nine of 11 and six straight on the road.

``I remember being frustrated before, but this is different because there are so many pieces, so many things going on,'' Bryant said. ``It is a little different.''

Where to start with this one?

Well, there was Kirk Hinrich scoring a season-high 22 points, Marco Belinelli adding 15 points, and the Bulls pulling away down the stretch.

Belinelli came up big in the closing minutes, scoring eight points during an 18-4 run that broke a 75-75 tie. He started it by hitting two free throws after getting fouled by Dwight Howard with 6:54 left in the game, and wrapped two 3-pointers around a layup by Los Angeles' Earl Clark, making it 89-79 with 2:27 remaining.

The Lakers' loss came after coach Mike D'Antoni made a surprise lineup switch. He used Pau Gasol off the bench, while starting Clark because he wanted more quickness, but the slide continued on a night when Bryant and Howard were mostly nonfactors against a Bulls team without Luol Deng and still awaiting the return of Derrick Rose.

Steve Nash led the Lakers with 18 points, while Bryant finished with just 16 on 7-of-22 shooting, ending a run of 24 games with 20 or more points.

``Very, very tough, very, very frustrating, trying to keep my cool,'' Bryant said. ``It is embarrassing. It is not even embarrassing. I am a big history guy. Playing here in this arena with these incredible fans, you're in the house of MJ, Pippen, PJ (Phil Jackson) built, to put this kind of brand of basketball on the floor is just not acceptable.''

Bryant even mentioned ditching D'Antoni's up-tempo style in favor of posting up more.

``We're going to have to look at some things,'' he said. ``We're going to have to change something. Probably going to have to post the ball a lot more, slow the game down a lot more. That's just my intuition, but that's my gut right now. I have to take a look at the film again, but we're definitely going to have to change something.''

Howard had just eight points and nine rebounds while picking up five fouls. Clark and Metta World Peace scored 12 apiece, and Gasol added 15 points and 12 rebounds in his new reserve role.

``It isn't against him, it's better for us right now,'' D'Antoni said of Gasol before the game. ``We're going to try to work through it and see what we can do. Things do change, things happen, I can't see the future but we're ready to go forward.''

The move caught Gasol off guard.

``I have no idea,'' he said when asked about his future in Los Angeles. ``I can't really worry about something that is out of my hands so I am just going to stay positive and do my best, but it is not something I am too thrilled about. I wasn't expecting it. But right now we have bigger things to worry about as a group. As a team player that's what I'm most concerned about.''

Hinrich hit 9 of 11 shots and nailed three 3-pointers. Belinelli and Nate Robinson (11 points) also hit three, and the Bulls were 9 of 17 overall from long range.

Joakim Noah added 13 rebounds and a season-best six blocks after sitting out the final 22 minutes, 53 seconds of Saturday's loss to Memphis. He blamed himself for the benching the other night, saying, ``That was all me.''

Noah was angry at coach Tom Thibodeau for taking him out of the game and acknowledged saying some things he regretted. He wouldn't say if he and Thibodeau discussed the incident, but he made it clear he had no one to blame but himself.

``I admit it,'' he said. ``It was my fault. I shouldn't have said the things that I said.''

Carlos Boozer chipped in with 14 points and six rebounds. Richard Hamilton scored 13, although he shot just 6 of 18. Jimmy Butler, making his second straight start with Deng (sore right hamstring) sidelined, scored 10 while trying to guard Bryant. And Chicago won this one in regulation after playing three straight overtime games.

NOTES: Thibodeau said Rose is ``very close'' to starting full contact drills in practice, the next step in the star point guard's recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Could it happen this week? ``Yeah - it could,'' Thibodeau said. Is it scheduled to happen this week? Thibodeau said, ``It could.'' He also said Rose will have to go through full-contact drills ``for an extended amount of time'' and that he won't be playing after ``one or two days of contact.''

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The complete list of players who have suited up for the Wizards in the 2018-19 season

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The complete list of players who have suited up for the Wizards in the 2018-19 season

As Chase Hughes writes, it's been quite a year for the Wizards' roster due to injuries and trades. How many of these names can you list without checking?

Here's the complete list of players who have suited up for the Wizards this season:

John Wall
Bradley Beal
Otto Porter Jr.
Markieff Morris
Dwight Howard
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Austin Rivers
Ian Mahinmi
Jeff Green
Tomas Satoransky
Chasson Randle
Jordan McRae
Devin Robinson
Troy Brown Jr.
Thomas Bryant
John Jenkins
Wesley Johnson
Jabari Parker
Bobby Portis
Sam Dekker
Ron Baker
Gary Payton II
Okaro White
Jason Smith
Trevor Ariza

Read more here.

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A franchise-record 25 players for the Wizards has made for an interesting year for Scott Brooks

A franchise-record 25 players for the Wizards has made for an interesting year for Scott Brooks

If it seems like the 2018-19 Washington Wizards have had a lot of different players play for them this season, well, that's because they have. This year they have set a franchise record by suiting up 25 different guys.

For some context, they had only 15 players appear in games all of last season. Eleven years ago, in the 2007-08 season, they had only 13 different guys suit up, or close to half as many as they have had this year.

The Wizards' 25 different players this season are not all that far off from the NBA record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2015-16 Memphis Grizzlies own that distinction with 28. That's a lot of different jerseys.

There are also two teams who have used more players than the Wizards this season alone. The Cavs have had 27 and the Grizzlies have had 26. Apparently this is Memphis' thing.

The reasons why the Wizards have reached this point are numerous. For one, they have made five trades since training camp began. If it weren't for the Feb. 7 trade deadline, they may have made more.

They, of course, have also dealt with major injuries, ones that greatly affected their plans. They lost John Wall for the season due to a torn Achilles and Dwight Howard has only played nine games so far due to a back injury.

Also, the advent and proximity of their new G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, has allowed them to call up players from the minors easier than before. And two-way contracts have added two players to their roster that weren't there in years past.

There were also a few months there when the Wizards did a dance with their final roster spots to save money under the pressure of the luxury tax. They signed a series of 10-day contracts and other players for weeks at a time. That brought some of the more random names to Washington like Ron Baker, Okaro White, Gary Payton II and John Jenkins.

The Wizards' front office has been busy flipping the roster upside down this season and the coaching staff has been left to sort it out. The most players head coach Scott Brooks has had on a team before is 21, back when he was with the Thunder, so this year has been a new challenge for him.

"What? Are you serious? I didn't know that," Brooks told NBC Sports Washington when informed of the franchise record. "No wonder I haven't slept this year."

The Wizards have a protocol for when new players are added. They are each given an iPad that is loaded with the playbook and film breakdowns. Coaches will meet with the players to give them a lay of the land. 

Brooks will introduce himself to all, but usually meets more extensively with those who are going to play major minutes. For those on the fringe of the roster, sometimes that introductory meeting will be handled by Dave Adkins, their director of player development.

When a player is on a 10-day contract, for instance, the transition is relatively easy. Only so much attention will be paid because they in most circumstances will rarely play

For players expected to log heavy minutes, the entire coaching staff will meet to discuss how to incorporate them. After the trades to bring in Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and Wesley Johnson on Feb. 6, Wizards coaches met the following day for over 30 minutes to brainstorm.

On Feb. 8, as Portis, Parker and Johnson were set to debut against the Cavaliers, the Wizards modified their morning shootaround to add extensive walk-throughs of their playbook. They held seminars on both ends of the court; one for offense and one for defense. One Wizards assistant said it was basically like the first day of training camp, at that point 54 games into their season.

"Going into this year, none of us could prepare for what has happened," Brooks said. "We wouldn't want to be in this position, but we are."

"Losing one of the best players in the league [in Wall], losing one of the key components to shoring up our weaknesses in Dwight. Then, John's second surgery has kind of made this a very unique year in that regard. With all the new players, it has definitely been challenging for me and my coaching staff and the guys that have been here."

Through the ups and the downs of the season, many more of the latter, Brooks has found some joy in the process. The players they have brought in on 10-day contracts and through call-ups from the G-League have taken him back to his own days as a player, when he battled as an undrafted guy to last 10 years in the NBA.

Chasson Randle, in particular, has charted a relatable path. The point guard began the season on a non-guaranteed contract, but in January had his deal guaranteed for the rest of the season.

That was an important step in his NBA career and Brooks remembers what that was like for him.

"That is one of the most enjoyable moments in coaching for me this year, having those guys, because I know that I was in that position, trying to battle and trying to achieve a lofty, lifelong dream," Brooks said. 

"We've had that with Chase. He's made himself into a pretty good player in this league. Hopefully, he's able to stick for a long, long time because he deserves it. He's as professional as anybody I've ever been around with his approach, his enthusiasm with an role that you will give him. To see that is awesome."

So, he knows Randle's name. Could Brooks name all 25 of the Wizards' players this season?

"No. It would take me a while. Sometimes I have trouble naming the 15 we have at the moment," he said. "I didn't realize 25, wow."

Click here for the entire list of players who have suited up for the Wizards this season.

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