Dixon, Blake at a loss in visit with Blazers

Home proves tough on former Terps, Wizards

Wizards 96, Trail Blazers 89


WASHINGTON -- They were greeted warmly by the fans who hold special memories of what Juan Dixon and Steve Blake did together at the University of Maryland, and by former teammates and coaches during their short careers here with the Washington Wizards.

Dixon and Blake are still linked, still teammates and still trying to make names for themselves in the NBA.

"They're attached at the hip," Portland Trail Blazers general manager John Nash joked before last night's 96-89 loss to the Wizards.

Returning to the MCI Center for the first time since signing as free agents last summer, Dixon and Blake might have been wearing different uniforms than the ones they wore here, but their roles have not changed much from the past couple of seasons - and in Blake's case might be even more limited.

On a rebuilding team filled with young backcourt talent, Dixon finds himself coming off the bench, playing behind Sergei Monia, a rookie from Russia. Blake finds himself mostly sitting while the Trail Blazers use second-year player Sebastian Telfair and rookie Jarrett Jack of Georgia Tech at point guard.

"It's different, but having Blake out there with me makes the transition easier," said Dixon, who, going into his fourth NBA season, signed a three-year, $8 million deal last summer.

While Dixon is getting a little more time with the Blazers than he got last season with the Wizards - he scored 10 points in 28 minutes last night - Blake has played sparingly. His 4 1/2 -minute stint against his old team was only his third appearance this season.

"It was a tough adjustment at first. I wasn't comfortable during the first part of training camp and that's probably one of the reasons why I'm not playing right now," said Blake, who played briefly with Dixon last night. "I'm past that and I'm just waiting for the opportunity."

Nash admitted last night that his interest in the two former Maryland teammates had as much to do with their character as their talent, considering how much turmoil the team has been through in recent seasons when they were often called the Jail Blazers.

But Blake doesn't want to be looked at as a player who was signed only because his name is not going to appear in any embarrassing headlines.

"I think they're looking at getting a better image out there, no question about that, but I've come to play basketball," said Blake, who going into his third season signed a two-year deal worth $1 million annually. "I'd like to think of myself as a nice guy, but I'm a basketball player."

As they walked around the MCI Center before and after the game, old friends gave them hugs and longtime fans asked for their autographs. Wearing the black and red of the Trail Blazers, Dixon was reminded that he once wore those colors with great distinction in College Park.

"I kind of like these colors," he said.


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