- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Don't label the attempt by the Washington Wizards to transform Juan Dixon into a point guard a failure.

But as with everything else about this team for, say, the last 20 years or so, be advised that it's not going to happen overnight. And understand that it's not going to be as slam-dunk easy as everyone made it seem when the Wizards plucked Dixon from the University of Maryland with the No. 17 pick overall.

Dixon came under the microscope Friday when injuries to the Wizards' main point guards Larry Hughes and Tyronn Lue forced Dixon into the starting lineup, producing widely varying results.

In a just-like-old-times performance against Chicago on Friday, Dixon was the toast of the town, leading the Wizards (29-30) with a career-high 27 points. That included three 3-pointers and two assists. For most of the night Dixon looked like the player who holds the Maryland scoring record.

But it took less than 24 hours for Dixon's sun to go down in Miami.

Against the Heat, Dixon had more turnovers (five) than points (four) in 29 minutes. Dixon had only two assists. Worse yet, the Wizards ran much more smoothly with Anthony Goldwire, who's on a 10-day contract.

The experience showed Dixon just how different the NBA game is. Yesterday, following a limited practice by the team, it had Dixon contemplating the transformation the Wizards are asking him to make.

"I can't really change my game," said Dixon, who scored 2,269 points at Maryland. "I'm not a true point guard. I'm never going to be that true point guard. Hopefully I can come around and be a lead guard with an opportunity to score the ball."

Dixon isn't giving up on becoming a point guard. After all, he knows that he's not going to make a living at least not a long one by trying to put up big numbers. However, the nuances of running the point are proving to be perplexing to Dixon, which isn't exactly good news.

That's because Goldwire is trying to learn how to direct the Wizards offense on the fly, and it isn't easy.

"Man," Goldwire said, "I'm limited. I don't know our plays. I just know the basic sets. Right now I'm just playing. I know who to get the ball to. Mike, Jerry, and if anybody else is open, give it to them. And I'm trying to play solidly defensively.

"This is very tough because I've come in and had two practices," Goldwire continued. "Every play the coaches are asking me, 'Do you remember this play and that play?' It's kind of tough. The thing is they expect you to make mistakes, so there's no pressure on me. To cover that up you have to play hard."

Despite a much lower profile than Dixon, Goldwire has been in and out of the NBA since he played for Charlotte in 1995. During the 1997-98 season, Goldwire appeared in all 82 regular-season games, and he started 32 of them on the way to averaging 9.2 points and 3.4 assists.

As a result, look for Collins to get him more involved in the rotation until Hughes returns. Hughes, whose sprained ankle was expected to keep him sidelined until at least the second week of March, could be back in time for Friday's game with Milwaukee, when the Wizards will see the Bucks' new backcourt of Gary Payton and Sam Cassell.

In the meantime, Dixon said he is not going to make any radical adjustments to his game. When he helped the Wizards beat the Bulls, Dixon was in attack mode the entire night. And even though he knows he's going to have to make adjustments to his game as his career progresses, he has no plans of changing the way he approaches playing.

"I'm going to be aggressive. That's when I play better on both ends of the floor," Dixon said. "When I'm aggressive, playing with energy and attacking the basket, that's when everything falls into place. So I'm just going to play my game and take it from there."

But will Dixon eventually conform to being the player the point guard the Wizards want him to become?

"I'm a basketball player, a guard," Dixon said. "I'm going to do whatever the coach asks me to do. But I know one thing I'm going to be aggressive. I'm never going to change that. That's what got me here, so that's what I'm going to continue to do."

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