Former Terps stars leave Wizards in search of more playing time
The Washington Wizards announced last Wednesday they will not match the offer sheet signed by backup point guard Steve Blake, officially making him the newest member of the Portland Trailblazers. Blake becomes the second Wizard to sign with the Blazers this offseason, joining former Maryland backcourt mate Juan Dixon in Portland.
The addition of Blake gives the Trailblazers (27-55 last season), a host of options at the point guard position in 2005-2006. Obviously not satisfied with the play of rookie Sebastian Telfair, an undersized and inexperienced ball handler drafted out of high school, the Blazers traded for former Georgia Tech star Jarret Jack after the 2005 Draft, and picked up Dixon and Blake over the summer.
In 119 games over two seasons with Washington, Blake averaged 5.3 points per game, 2.3 assists per game, 1.5 rebounds per game and gained valuable experience in four Wizards playoff games. Dixon averaged 8 ppg, 1.8 apg and 1.9 steals per game for Washington in 2004-2005.
The Wizards' decision not to re-sign Blake seems to have been decided months ago, when Washington acquired veteran point guards Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins. Daniels, acquired via free agency from the Seattle SuperSonics, is a combo guard who averaged 11.2 ppg and ranked second in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio playing alongside Ray Allen in 2004-05. Atkins, a six-year veteran, is a three-point specialist with a career percentage of 37% from beyond the arc.
The Trailblazers hope Blake will provide solid shooting and passing off the bench and are happy to have a point guard with NBA experience and a winning attitude on their team. According to the Blazers' website, Portland general Manager John Nash said, "We are very pleased that the Wizards did not match and that Steve Blake is now part of the Trail Blazers family. As we said when we signed him to the offer sheet, Steve has competed at the highest level in college culminated by his experience at Maryland and winning a National Championship. With his two seasons at Washington, he adds to the limited experience of a young team and we know he will bring additional energy and enthusiasm to our training camp."
At Maryland, Blake and Dixon made up a backcourt that led the Terrapins to the NCAA National Championship in 2002. Blake, Maryland's all-time assist leader (972), was the first Atlantic Coast Conference player to score 1,000 points, dish out 800 assists, grab 400 rebounds and snatch 200 steals. Dixon, maybe the best guard in Maryland history, was voted first team All-American, ACC Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the '02 Final Four as a senior. Dixon, also Maryland's all-time leading scorer, with 2,149 points, is the only player in college basketball history to have 2,000 points, 300 steals and 200 three-pointers.
Washington drafted Dixon with the 17th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. A year later, the Wizards made Blake their second-round (38th overall) pick in the 2003 Draft. The pair played sparingly in each of their rookie seasons but were a hit at the ticket office and helped create a buzz surrounding a team that was stuck in the doldrums of the NBA.
Dixon and Blake were integral parts of the Wizards 2004-05 team that won a first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Dixon was a free agent after last season and was pursued by the Heat and Bobcats, but ended up signing with the Blazers early in the offseason. Blake was signed to an offer sheet by the Blazers on September 21st, giving the Wizards one week to match the offer, which they eventually declined.
Both Blake and Dixon have the potential to be key sparkplugs and stand-up players on a Portland team that has a reputation that is expressed by their nickname around the NBA, the "Jailblazers."
Abe Schwadron. Abe is a huge basketball, baseball, and football fan that likes to read up on sports in SLAM, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN magazines. Hobbies include streetball, poker and film-making. A sneaker addict, Abe likes to keep his kicks fresh. Abe likes reggae and hip-hop music, ... More »