WASHINGTON — So much for all the jokes about the Lakers wishing they played in the Eastern Conference.
They returned to the regularly scheduled narrative of their season, another loss, after a two-game spree against the East.
Jeremy Lin was benched in the fourth quarter after missing all 10 of his shots, Bryant scored 29 points but didn't make a shot in the second half and the Lakers fell to 4-1 against the East.
Of greater importance, they're 5-14 overall and a medium-sized Metro ride from the lottery, to steal a local term here. If nothing else, it was a good time to ask Bryant about his future plans.
Will he keep playing after his current contract expires in 2016?
"Maybe. Maybe not. I don't mean to try to be coy about it. I don't know what to tell you. Right now, I'd say no," said Bryant, who pinned it on whether he could keep handling the daily effort to play at his level, let alone his grueling off-season workouts.
"The amount of commitment that it takes, it's nuts," Bryant said, not mentioning the continual ice baths, detailed stretching routines and eternal fountain of hydrating fluids he consumes religiously. Plus the simple concept of elevating his legs for long periods every day.
Another unspoken factor: There's no telling what the Lakers look like in July 2016. Will they have the pieces to entice Bryant to stay? And how much of a pay cut would he take after the $25 million he'd make next season?
"If I want to play, I'll play. I tend to make my own decisions," he said. "If I don't want to play, I won't play."
Lakers Coach Byron Scott wouldn't want to hear the latter.
"I think if we put something together that excites him, I think we have a real good chance of saying, 'Play another year. Give it another shot,' " Scott said. "So that's what we plan to do."
Bryant couldn't be blamed if he was being coy. There are so many unknowns about the Lakers.
Nobody can predict if they'll finish low enough after the lottery to keep the pick they owe Phoenix for 65 games' worth of Steve Nash. No one knows if they can get Kevin Love or someone like him next summer. Or Kevin Durant the following summer.
Meanwhile, there's this team.
Ronnie Price was the Lakers' point guard in the fourth quarter, not the scoreless Lin.
As Lin ran to the locker room briefly during that span, a fan wearing a Bryant jersey yelled, "Stay back there!"
"We just need more guys to join the party," Scott said. "We don't have the luxury of two or three guys not having good games on a night like this playing against a team like this."
Bryant missed all seven of his second-half shots after making eight of 15 in the first half, when the Lakers built a 10-point lead.
Worth mentioning: The Lakers were playing on back-to-back nights as the Wizards finished the game with a 14-2 run punctuated by three dunks, a layup and a four-point play.
Bradley Beal had 27 points and Wall had 17 points and 15 assists for the Wizards (12-5).
With so much talk about the future, it was youth and vigor the Lakers wished they owned.