- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the second time in as many nights, the Washington Wizards had an opportunity to play a part in NBA history, and once again the results were to their liking.

After an unlikely season-opening victory at the Memphis Grizzlies’ new home, the Wizards had five players score in double figures last night en route to a 103-96 victory that spoiled the debut of the league’s newest franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats.

The victory before an announced sellout crowd of 23,319 at Charlotte Coliseum gave Washington its first 2-0 start since 1994. And not since 1985 has the franchise opened with a pair of road victories.

Facing a spirited Charlotte team that never trailed by more than nine points, the Wizards used a 9-0 run to lead 94-85 with 4:13 left.

Crucial to the victory were the 13 points scored by reserve Juan Dixon in the fourth quarter. One night after scoring 28 in a starting role because of the absence of suspended players Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes, Dixon helped beat a team that passed on him in the expansion draft.

“He is playing with a chip on his shoulder, and that is the story of his life,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “I mean, what is his position? He’s too short to be a two guard, and he’s not a natural point guard. But right now he is very valuable to us.”

Dixon, who also added five assists and five rebounds in 20 minutes, agreed whole-heartedly with his coach’s evaluation.

“I do play with a chip on my shoulder,” the former Maryland star said, “but the most important thing we wanted to do was to go out and get two wins on this road trip. Right now I’m having fun.”

For the second night in a row, Antawn Jamison led the Wizards in scoring with 24 points. Arenas finished with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Jarvis Hayes had 17 points, and Hughes finished with four of the Wizards’ 14 steals.

Told this was the first time in 10 years the Wizards have opened the season with back-to-back wins, Hughes replied, “I think with this team we’ll break a lot of [bad] things that have been going on for 10 straight years.”

Charlotte rookie Emeka Okafor, the No.2 pick in the NBA Draft, finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Primoz Brezec and Steve Smith added 15 points each.

Although the Bobcats cut the lead to 96-90 on Brevin Knight’s free throw with 2:45 left, they were unable to capitalize on four turnovers by the Wizards in the final 2:20.

“The guys got after [them], but there were some things that we just didn’t do,” Bobcats and former Wizards coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “I don’t know if we’re ready to do those things.”

Obviously the Bobcats — a team of NBA castoffs — don’t represent the level of competition the Wizards will face during coming months. Washington will get a better chance to measure its progress tomorrow night when the Miami Heat and Shaquille O’Neal come to MCI Center.

Still, nobody in the Wizards’ locker room had anything disparaging to say about the Bobcats, the first major professional team in American sports history to have a black man, television executive Bob Johnson, as majority owner.

“Everyone says they are an expansion team and that we should blow them out,” Arenas said. “But they played very hard.”

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