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Injured again, Baker out of Australian Open

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Injured again, Baker out of Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) After being sidelined with injuries for nearly six years, Brian Baker was finally back on the court with a second chance at a professional career.

Playing in his first Australian Open at the age of 27, Baker had just won the first set in his second-round match against fellow American Sam Querrey when his body gave out on him again.

He crumpled to the court after hitting a shot long and shouted in pain, grasping his right knee. After limping awkwardly and then hopping to his chair, he sat down, ripped off his headband and shook his head in frustration.

Baker retired several minutes later and was pushed off the court in a wheelchair. As the crowd applauded, a woman shouted from the stands, ``Don't give up, Brian.''

``He said he kind of just felt his knee almost buckle and kind of heard like a pop or a snap,'' No. 20 seed Querrey said after the match. ``He didn't know if it was bones or a tear, but he couldn't straighten it, couldn't walk.''

Tournament organizers said later that Baker had a torn meniscus. He is expected to be out about four months.

While the injury could have been worse, the setback is no doubt a heartbreaking one for a player who has undergone five major surgeries - but never had a knee problem until Wednesday.

``He's the last person that deserves anything like that,'' said Querrey, who has become friends with Baker as they've both come back from injuries over the past year. ``He does everything right, treats his body great, just trying to come back, and then something like that happens, it's just so unlucky.''

Baker's injury elicited messages of support from other players who have followed - and admired - his comeback.

``It's a shame,'' said fellow American Tim Smyczek after his second-round loss to Spaniard David Ferrer. ``He's such a good player. He's got so much talent and he's got great tennis IQ. He's just had the worst luck.''

Baker was once the No. 2-ranked junior in the world and a boys French Open finalist in 2003. He recorded his first top-10 victory at the U.S. Open in 2005 when he upset then-No. 9 Gaston Gaudio in the first round. He lost his next match against Xavier Malisse - and then didn't play another ATP-level match for seven years.

Any of the surgeries Baker underwent during that time could have ended his career: left hip (2005), sports hernia (2006), right elbow reconstructive surgery (February 2008), left hip again (April 2008), right hip (June 2008).

Baker took a job as an assistant tennis coach at Belmont University in his native Nashville, Tenn. But he never ruled out a comeback on the pro tour.

Baker got his chance at a small ATP tournament in Nice last May. Ranked No. 216, he qualified for the main draw and then made it all the way to the final, beating 13th-ranked Gael Monfils along the way. Weeks later, he qualified for the main draw at Wimbledon and reached the fourth round, pushing his ranking up to 76th.

Baker started the new year full of promise, closing in on the top 50 in the rankings. He beat Russia's Alex Bogomolov Jr. in the first round at Melbourne Park - his first-ever five-set victory - setting up the second-round encounter with Querrey.

``He has been so unfortunate in the last six years, seven years,'' Querrey said. ``So, you know, I think if he can heal quickly or if it takes a year, I think he can get right back where he is right now. He's talented; he's good enough. No matter what happens, I still think he can come back to where he is now.''

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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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