If he ever got the chance to come back home, he would know what to do with it.
“Take advantage of it,” said Dixon, whom the Wizards signed Tuesday to a one-year, partially guaranteed deal worth $1.03 million. “I’ve learned so much over the last three years and didn’t realize how good I had it. So I definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity, work hard and be a good teammate and get out in the community.”
The Wizards drafted the 6-foot-3, six-year veteran 17th overall in 2002 - just months after he led the Terrapins to the NCAA championship. In three seasons with the Wizards, Dixon averaged 7.9 points and 1.6 assists in 17.6 minutes a game. But in the summer of 2005, the Wizards declined to pick up a $1.76 million option on Dixon’s contract, and he signed a three-year, $8 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dixon seemed to take the next step in his career the following season. He made 42 starts and averaged a career-high 12.3 points and 2.0 assists. But the Trail Blazers traded Dixon to Toronto during the 2006-07 season, and after using him sparingly, the Raptors sent Dixon to Detroit last year.
Without a job when the summer began, Dixon made a list of teams he would like to play for and ranked the Wizards high.
When sixth man Roger Mason Jr. - coming off of a career year (9.1 points and a team-high .398 3-point shooting percentage) - left the District for San Antonio in July, Dixon’s optimism increased.
“I was confident, especially when I found out Roger signed with the Spurs,” said Dixon, who trained at Verizon Center much of the summer. “Roger and I are similar players. He’s a little bigger than me, but we can do the same type of things off the bench. … I spoke to [Wizards president] Ernie [Grunfeld] in the summer and told him I was interested, but the ball’s always in his court. He knows what type of team he wants to build. So I feel very thankful to Ernie, and I feel wanted.”
Grunfeld - who on Tuesday praised Dixon as a “proven NBA player” and “tough, hard-nosed competitor” - also believed Dixon could fill the role vacated by Mason’s departure and, after maintaining contact with the guard, worked out a deal.
Although he handled the ball at times in college, Dixon isn’t a true point guard, and he’s undersized for a traditional shooting guard. But Wizards coach Eddie Jordan runs a two-guard system in which both share the ball-handling duties and nearly every player has an opportunity to score. Because of the way the system is designed - and because of his familiarity with it - Dixon believes he will succeed.
“It fits me,” he said of the Wizards’ offense. “At times I think I can be out there with [shooting guard] DeShawn [Stevenson] or [reserve guard] Nick [Young] and I won’t have the ball-handing duties, but I feel like I can initiate the offense, get the ball to the right spots and take it from there. … It’s the opportunity to play a lot of minutes, but I’ve got to earn all those minutes and work hard.”
Dixon, who this season will wear his high-school No. 12, said that hard work will begin in training camp Saturday morning at VCU. And after that, he will get an apartment downtown - as opposed to living in Silver Spring, as he did in his first Wizards stint - so he can walk to practice, get there early and get extra work in to improve his game.
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