Rookie point guard Juan Dixon seized a rare opportunity to play meaningful minutes in Tuesday's 88-84 loss to the Indiana Pacers, recording six steals and scoring a career-high 15 points while nearly rallying the Washington Wizards from a 19-point hole with a dazzling fourth-quarter performance.
Dixon played a season-high 24 minutes because starter Larry Hughes was injured and Tyronn Lue, who was making his first start of the season, had an off night. Hughes's strained right wrist is better and he will start Friday when Washington (6-8) travels to Indiana (11-2) to try and stop a four-game losing streak. Lue, the team's most consistent player, said it isn't likely that he'll have another dud showing (1-of-9 shooting).
However, the wispy Dixon isn't going back to the end of the bench. His scoring potential, his relentless defense and the energy he brings -- trademarks of his tenure at Maryland, where he led the Terrapins to their first NCAA championship last season -- are too beneficial to keep shelved, Coach Doug Collins said.
"I want to get Juan on the floor more," Collins said yesterday. "The kid is a terrific player. From my standpoint, the planning I have to do now is to get situations where I can get guys the time they need. I need to get him out there. I've got to find a way to do it. His energy and just what he brings, we need."
Said Dixon: "I'm just going to do the same things I did [Tuesday] night: Play good help defense, great on-the-ball defense, hit open shots when I'm open and try to bring energy when I'm on the floor. That's my job here, that's my role and that's what I'm going to continue to do."
Dixon, who has played in seven games (8.4 minutes, 5.3 points per game), received expanded time in practice yesterday not only because he's being inserted into the rotation but because Collins kept shooting guards Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse out of the two-hour workout.
Jordan, 39, did not have any problems with his surgically repaired right knee after playing 34 minutes Tuesday, but because his playing time will increase, Collins said he sat Jordan as a precaution. Stackhouse said his right knee has bothered him the past three games -- the last two he has shot poorly and not attacked the rim -- but he was set to practice until Collins insisted he get treatment instead of practicing.
"It hurt against Houston and I scored 26 so ain't nothing wrong," said Stackhouse, who has made just six of his last 35 shots. "I try to stay out of that training room but today I went in and got some treatment but I'm fine."
Though Dixon is being used mainly at point guard, he also could give Jordan or Stackhouse a break by sliding over to shooting guard. Collins said he is not going to try to make Dixon, a converted shooting guard, into a prototypical point guard, who sets up his teammates before including himself as a scoring option.
"I've been scoring my whole life so I would be more of a lead guard," Dixon said. "I'm learning how to get players in the right spots on the floor and get them the ball but, no, I'm not going to be the type of point guard who's going to dish out 10, 12 assists a game. That's not going to happen."
As for his breakout game against the Pacers on Tuesday, Dixon said: "It was bittersweet. I got the opportunity and tried to take advantage of it. We came up short but I tried to go out there and leave it all on the court."
When a seldom-used player enters a game and performs well, he quickly lands on opponents' scouting reports. Dixon is well aware that the Pacers might make some adjustments, "but I'm going to play with the same aggressiveness and same attitude and attack on both ends of the floor," he said. "I think I can make things happen."
Wizards Note: A 2-year-old colt named Juan Dixon, ridden by Clinton Potts, finished second to Gimmeawink in the $26,000 8th race at Laurel Park yesterday. Juan Dixon paid $5.00 to place and $3.40 to show. Originally named Chapel Garden, Juan Dixon (the horse) was renamed by owner Robert Cole, a University of Maryland graduate.