- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

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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