- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

So Steve Blake has elected to join Juan Dixon in Portland, Ore., clutching the faint hope of reprising their College Park magic there.

Their stint on Fun Street always was viewed through the rose-colored lens of a national championship, and overvalued, as if excellence in the NCAA somehow correlates to stardom in the NBA.

The postgame callers to Scott Jackson inevitably sang this flawed tune in varying tones, never grasping the elementary liabilities of both players. Neither has an NBA body, for starters.

As energetic as Dixon is in the passing lanes, he cannot overcome the limitations of his modest physique. He is condemned by genetics to be the 98-pound weakling at the beach. The opposition routinely kicked sand in his face.

Whenever Dixon entered the game in the Wizards-Bulls playoff series last spring, the eyes of Bulls coach Scott Skiles would reveal traces of glee. The backcourt players of the Bulls attacked Dixon with uncommon passion. It was ugly. It was unfair. But that is the NBA. There is nothing egalitarian about it.

If you have a weakness, it will be exposed.

And so it was with Dixon and Blake.

The adulation spent on them was misplaced, misguided, and the Wizards are stronger by subtraction in this case.

Dixon was ever more delusional with the Wizards, as blind as his supporters.

Confidence is a funny thing. Coaches want players to be confident. They also want them to have a clue.

Dixon came to believe in the power of his career .396 shooting percentage, however one is swayed by that cold number.

It is true that Dixon can be a competent shooter if his feet are set and someone else has done the work that merited his open look.

Dixon, though, is not content to be a spot-up shooter. He wants to be Gilbert Arenas Lite, which is how he came to be known as No, Don’t Do It, Don’t Take That Shot.

But he would do it anyway — dribble the ball in place for about 15 seconds before making a move that all too often resulted in a field goal attempt with an incredibly high degree of difficulty.

Once every four or five games, when deployed against the opposition’s backups, he would have a performance that set tongues wagging, and it would be Maryland all over again on the airwaves.

His pompon-waving fans would forget his series of 2-for-9 shooting performances, his inability to defend the breathing and his tendency to wear the blinders of the carriage-pulling horses downtown.

Dixon had one game in the playoffs. The rest of the time, he was mostly No, Don’t Do It, Don’t Take That Shot.

Dixon, of course, is elated to be joined by Blake, and no less delusional.

As he put it to the Oregonian, “When we go back to the MCI Center on Nov. 30, we can show the Wizards how badly they messed up.”

And how did the Wizards mess up in the trade that secured Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins and in the signing of Antonio Daniels, two moves that reduced Dixon and Blake to irrelevance?

Perhaps Dixon and Blake will find a measure of satisfaction with the Trail Blazers. If so, it will be because Dixon finally has come to terms with being a role player and because Blake has developed a consistent outside shot and added 10-15 pounds of muscle to his frail frame.

Nov. 30?

Dixon might want to rethink this challenge if he is required to defend Arenas for any significant period of time.

Arenas just might dump 50 on Dixon.

And there is nothing Dixon can do about it. That is not a criticism. That is just the way it is.

Dixon has maximized his physical abilities with grit and persistence. His next challenge is the mental, the accepting of what he is.

If he does that, he will have a long NBA career. Shooters never fall out of favor in the NBA.

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