This Saturday the Jazz will be back in Washington, home of the most celebrated heckler in the NBA, Robin Ficker. Expect Ficker to be in rare form for the Jazz, because one of his most successful nights of heckling came during a Bullets-Jazz game.

In a recent interview, Jazz President Frank Layden was asked if he ever spit on Ficker, who by day is a Washington attorney. "No. I missed," says Layden.Layden goes on to describe the night. "I spit and I missed and I tried to throw water at him. I was going over the seats after him. I was hollering at him and he kept yelling that he was a lawyer."

But time seems to lend perspective, and Layden says in hindsight, Ficker wasn't a bad idea. "Let me tell you, I wish we had a Ficker in every visiting arena we go to. Because he gets your team up. He gets you up. You could go to Washington and fall asleep, but he doesn't let you.

"Since Ficker got there and I coached, I never lost a game. He would do more than I ever could to motivate my team. He is one of my heroes. But he was a coward. He kept hollering, `I'm a lawyer.'

"But the more I think about it, I wish there was one (of him) in every city. He gets you up for the game. They can do what a coach can't do. If I were Washington, I would get him up on the roof and get him out of there."

The former Jazz coach insists Ficker actually motivates the opposition. "I am serious. He gets on the players and they come off the court, waving fists at him. I think we should pay him to come along and motivate us. He's more valuable to us than the 12th man. If we wait a few more years, we're going to retire his number."

Include Dallas guard Derek Harper among those who think Mark Eaton is a big factor in the Jazz's past success. After the Mavericks nearly upset the Jazz, Harper says the Jazz "really miss Eaton. He changes the game."

Harper went on to say the Jazz are a better team this year than last. "I think they're better," continues Harper. "But the season is young. Teams are still trying to find their rhythm. Until they do that, they're not going to be perfect. But Utah is definitely a better team than last year."

This column includes materials from outside news sources.