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For Bryant, playing is 'therapy'
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/19/2007 12:19 AM

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Lakers star Kobe Bryant never heard the United Center crowd chant his name during Tuesday's 103-91 Lakers victory.

But he's well aware of a few "Kobe, Kobe" chants early this season when trade rumors were flying and the Bulls were playing poorly.

"A couple of my friends played against the Bulls when that took place," Bryant said. "They called me after the game and said they heard something that was just the craziest thing ever. I was shocked by it."

It has become an old story, how Bryant requested a trade last summer and the Bulls were thought to be his preferred destination.

Basically, the reason the Bulls never came close to dealing for Bryant is the Lakers felt no urgency to make a move and asked for too many assets in return.

Bryant probably would have had to sit out training camp to force the Lakers into making a deal he and the Bulls would have accepted. Before the game, he was asked why he didn't take that path.

"I just go about it in a professional way," Bryant answered. "I love playing so much. This is therapy for me. My teammates, we're like brothers. We all get along extremely well. It would be vastly unfair for me to do something like that. I love playing so much, I couldn't do it. I'm like a basketball junkie."

Practice can be optional: Luol Deng did not look comfortable early in Tuesday's game, hitting 2 of 8 shots with 3 rebounds before halftime.

He missed the previous day's practice complaining of a sore back, which wasn't a problem before the Bulls held a 2½-hour practice Sunday.

Coach Scott Skiles suggested Deng is welcome to sit out practice whenever necessary.

"Look, if you've got three days off, you've got to practice," Skiles said before the game. "You can't just not practice, especially when your team is not playing as well as it needs to play. And ultimately, the players themselves say when they're ready to go.

"He's more or less in charge of himself with regard to how his back feels and how he can practice. He has taken time off. It's not the first practice he's missed yesterday. He's pulled himself out a couple of times. That's part of growing up as a player, too, is understanding what you can and can't do."

Bulls make D-League swap: The Bulls sent Demetris Nichols for a D-League assignment with the Iowa Energy as rookie guard James OnCurry returned. Neither Nichols nor Curry has been on the active roster this season.

Curry posted impressive numbers in nine games with Iowa, averaging 21.9 points and 5.8 assists, while shooting 47.3 percent. He's expecting another D-League stint in early January.

"I definitely think it was beneficial, because you were in game situations playing basketball," Curry said. "I definitely think I got better."

What about dropping down to the low-rent life of the D-League after experiencing luxury in the NBA?

"It was a humbling experience, definitely," Curry said. "(The longest trip was) an eight-hour bus ride to Fort Wayne. It was gruesome. It's very uncomfortable if you're driving that long. I'd wake up in crazy positions, my neck would hurt."

Kirk's streak ends: Kirk Hinrich's free-throw streak ended at 27 when he missed his first attempt Tuesday. It was his first miss since Nov. 17 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Tonight's tipoff

Bulls vs. Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center, 6 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WMVP 1000-AM

Update: The Wizards started 0-5 this season but have gone 13-5 since Nov. 11. Washington has excelled even though star guard Gilbert Arenas left the lineup after eight games with a knee injury. … Now PG Antonio Daniels is out with a knee injury, so the Wizards will start rookie Nick Young with DeShawn Stevenson in the backcourt. … The Bulls have won six of the last eight in this series.

Players to watch: Caron Butler (22.1 ppg) and Antawn Jamison (20.9 ppg) have picked up the scoring slack, while underachieving center Brendan Haywood (10.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg) suddenly is having his best season as a pro.

Next: Boston Celtics on Friday at the TD Banknorth Garden, 7 p.m.

-- Mike McGraw