If the 0-7 Wizards hope to avoid matching their worst start in franchise history tonight against the Utah Jazz at Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN] they might have to take a few bumps and bruises in the process.
“This is a huge team,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “This is going to be probably the most physical team in the league. That’s probably what we have to be focused on. It’s going to be a physical game.”
With Al Jefferson [6-foot-10, 289 pounds], Derrick Favors [6-10, 248] and Paul Millsap [6-8, 253] the Jazz are capable of throwing some weight under the basket. That could prompt Wittman to try something he hasn’t so far this season – playing Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin at the same time.
One way or another the Wizards will need to find a way to contain Millsap, who is averaging 25.3 points and 9.3 rebounds on the Jazz’ current toad trip, and Jefferson, who leads the Jazz with 18.5 points a game and is averaging 9.2 rebounds a game.
Jefferson has scored 1,000 or more points in each of his last six seasons and has seven double-double this season. He’s reached double-doubles in each of his last three games against the Wizards, including a season-high 34 points and 12 rebounds in a 114-100 win in Utah on Feb. 17.
“He could score the ball coming out of the crib,” Wittman joked.
The Jazz are 3-0 at home this season but just 1-6 on the road. The Wizards are playing at Verizon Center for just the third time this season. Last season they were 11-22 on their home court.
“We haven’t been home since Oct. 2,” said Wittman, conveniently forgetting home losses to the Celtics and Bucks on Nov. 3 and Nov. 9. “That’s what it feels like. It’s always nice to get here and be in the city and be in your own bed a little bit. That’s always good.”
Wittman will be looking to create more offense from a team that is averaging just 88 points a game and is led by rookie Bradley Beal, who is averaging 11.6 points but has just 16 points in his last two games while shooting just 4-for-25.
The Wizards are hoping the arrival of free-agent point guard Shaun Livingston [6-foot-7, 175 pounds] will help spark an offense that has cracked 100 points just once this season.
“Shaun is very talented,” teammate Cartier Martin said. “He’s a bigger guard. He can handle the ball. He’ll allow us to put a bigger guard on a point guard to kind of scramble up the other team’s offense. He also knows the game. He’s been in a lot of different places and he knows the game well. I’m sure his presence will be a big help.”
Livingston, who averaged 9.3 points a game the season before dislocating his left kneecap midway through the 2007-08 season, is expected to rotate in and out with starter A.J. Price.
"He was all-world before his knee injury, to be honest with you,” Price said. “He’s a good point guard -- not one of those guys they try to turn into a point guard. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time.”