Emeka Okafor, the only Wizards player to appear in the first 66 games, will miss his first game of the season after coming down with the flu. Okafor didn’t participate in Tuesday’s practice at US Airways Center and will sit for the first time since missing the final 39 games of last season with the flu.
Coach Randy Wittman will start veteran center Jason Collins in place of Okafor. Collins has only appeared in one game, playing three minutes in Cleveland, since the Wizards acquired him from Boston in a trade deadline deal involving Jordan Crawford. Wittman wants to use the 7-foot Collins to match up Suns center Jermaine O’Neal.
“I know what Jason can provide,” said Wittman, who previously coached Collins in Minnesota. “He has been in the league a long time. A veteran guy, I think we just wanted to go with somebody who can give us a big body that can go against Jermaine early to start the game.”
The Wizards defeated the Suns, 127-102, when they met four days ago at Verizon Center. Martell scored a career-high 34 points and made seven three-pointers in the win, but after the game, O’Neal approached John Wall at center court to discuss a late-game dustup with Trevor Booker. The issue was resolved before the teams left the floor.
“Him and Book got into an altercation,” Wall explained after the game. “I got in between and just told them to keep playing. Just a misunderstanding by somebody I respect as a veteran that plays in this league. Just apologized and kept it moving.”
Wittman said he expects to see some carryover when the teams have the rematch. “It will be fresh on everybody’s mind. When you play a team this close together, you win it. You lose it. You are pointing for that game again.”
The Wizards (23-43) haven’t won in Phoenix since Gilbert Arenas erupted for 54 points in a 144-139 double overtime victory on Dec. 22, 2006. They have lost five straight in Phoenix.
Tipoff: 10 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 106.7 (WJFK FM)