at Cleveland, Today, 1


WWRC-1260, WAGE-1200, WNAV-1430 Juan Dixon was passed over in the expansion draft last summer, passed over when the team decided not to pick up his $1.73 million option last month, passed over by 13 other teams in the first round of the 2002 draft. But the reserve guard has proved invaluable in the Washington Wizards' three wins this season.

Dixon showed his worth on opening night when he filled in at starting point guard for Gilbert Arenas and scored 28 points -- despite cramping in his right calf -- while helping the team pull off an unlikely win at Memphis. A day later, Dixon came off the bench and scored 13 fourth-quarter points at Charlotte. And, in the Wizards' 106-96 win against the Orlando Magic, Dixon helped restore order by scoring five points near the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth after the Magic took a brief lead.

"I think we have a great team here," Dixon said. "We have a chance to make the playoffs and everybody has to perform well. I just want to come off the bench and do my part."

With Steve Blake on the injured list with a surgically repaired ankle, the Wizards have needed Dixon to spell Arenas at point guard and Dixon ranks second in assists (3.2), field goal percentage (51.9 percent) and fifth in scoring (14 points). . . .

Reserve forward Jared Jeffries had his face fitted for a mask Thursday and will return to the court today in Cleveland. He broke his nose against the Miami Heat and was forced to sit out against the Magic, snapping a string of 86 consecutive games played. Jeffries was the lone Wizard to play in all 82 games last season. . . .

After winning three of their first five games this season, the Wizards will play their sixth game in Cleveland. Last season, the Wizards were 3-2 before they went on the road to Cleveland -- where they lost, 111-98, and started a four-game losing streak. The Wizards never came close to a .500 record after that. "Don't remind me," Coach Eddie Jordan said.

-- Michael Lee