The Other Side: Utah Jazz
You always remember the first one. Yes, it was Nov. 12 and the Washington Wizards were the only winless team in the NBA when the Utah Jazz came to town with a 5-1 record and a healthy Deron Williams was playing just his second game of the season. On that night, the Wizards recorded their first victory of the season, an emotional 95-87 victory that helped them avoid the first 0-6 start in franchise history and led Caron Butler to take off his jersey at center court. The win was supposed to signal a turnaround for the Wizards -- they beat a really good Western Conference team -- until they lost the next four games and got Eddie Jordan fired.
Oh well. The Wizards have won just 15 games since they last played the Jazz, which is quite incredible when you consider that Utah had a 12-game winning streak snapped last week. Oddly enough, the Wizards actually have a better record over their past four games -- 2-2 -- because the Jazz has lost three in a row for the first time since late January.
Utah is coming off a terrible East Coast road trip in which it lost in Atlanta, Miami and Orlando and surrendered its short-lived hold on first place in the Northwest Division. Williams (bruised left knee) and center Mehmet Okur (sprained ankle) suffered injuries at the tail end of the trip. Both players are listed as game-time decisions for tonight, when the Jazz returns home for one of its final seven home games this season.
Utah is 28-6 at EnergySolutions Arena and hasn't lost at home since Jan. 27. The Jazz has also dedicated the rest of the season to former owner Larry H. Miller, who died from complications of type 2 diabetes on Feb. 20. The Jazz still believes that this could be a special season.
Here's what else you should know about the Jazz as it prepares to host the Wizards tonight at EnergySolutions Arena:
1. Carlos Boozer Might Be Having Second Thoughts
Carlos Boozer may have opened his mouth too soon when he told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan in late December that he plans on opting out of a contract that will pay him $12.7 million and becoming an unrestricted free agent. Since he made those comments, his rumored landing spot, Miami, worked out a trade for Jermaine O'Neal that left Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, Minnesota and Oklahoma City as the only teams with significant cap space this summer. And, backup Paul Millsap filled in admirably, recording 27 double-doubles in 61 games this season.
The economy has made it difficult for all free agents this summer, and Boozer has backed off from his earlier comments. Boozer has missed 44 games this season because of a strained left quad tendon and left knee surgery. Since he returned to the team on Feb. 23, Boozer is averaging 12.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 10 games. But his return has actually helped Millsap be more productive per minute.
2. Deron Williams Is Challenging CP3 for Top PG
Back when the season began, and Deron Williams was struggling to recover from a sprained ankle, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons dissed him and said comparing Chris Paul to Deron Williams was "like comparing Pearl Jam to Stone Temple Pilots. Don't waste your time." But in the past two months, Williams has re-opened the debate with his friend/rival, averaging 21.1 points and 11.4 assists.
If you want to learn the moves that make D-Will so good, check out the video below:
3. The Jazz Is Out of Tune on the Road
The Jazz is a completely different team at home and on the road. Among teams with at least 38 wins, the Jazz has the fewest road victories with just 13. Even more problematic, the Jazz has just one road victory against a team with a winning record this season -- and that came against Detroit (33-32), in overtime, on Dec. 19. The Jazz players admit that they don't come out with the same mentality on the road. But they will have to figure something out soon, because eight of their final 15 games are away from home, with road games against Phoenix, Portland, Denver, New Orleans, Dallas, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers.
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