Raps make Juan deal

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

A tattoo on Juan Dixon's right arm reads: 'Only the Strong Survive.'

Well, not only has the veteran shooting guard survived one of the worst possible childhoods imaginable, he has flourished in life and on the court. Now he is a member of the Toronto Raptors, who acquired the Baltimore native yesterday from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for underachieving shooting guard Fred Jones.

"We think with Dixon's ability to play both guard positions, that versatility that we strive for, he's going to have a chance to come in and participate in the way perhaps we had envisioned Freddy playing," Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo said.

A first-round selection (17th overall) by the Washington Wizards in 2002, Dixon has appeared in 307 career regular- season games, averaging 9.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 20.7 minutes. He averaged 11.4 points, 1.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 10 post-season contests with the Wizards in 2005. He spent his first three seasons with Washington before signing with Portland as a free agent Aug. 4, 2005. This season with the Blazers, the Baltimore native has averaged 8.9 points, 1.5 assists and 22.6 minutes in 55 games.

He finished his collegiate career as Maryland's career leading scorer with 2,269 points, leading the school to the 2002 NCAA championship and was named first-team All American.

The most impressive aspect of his resume, however, has nothing to do with his awards, points or assists totals.

Dixon, 28, made it to the University of Maryland and the NBA despite being passed between his troubled parents and various aunts, cousins and grandparents. His parents, Juanita and Phil, were both heroin addicts who died of AIDS before the age of 40, leaving Dixon an orphan at 17.

Thankfully, his extended family stepped in, and both Juan and his brother Phil, who is a Baltimore police officer, flourished.

Dixon's aunt, Sheila Dixon, is the mayor of Baltimore, the first woman to serve in that position.

Dixon and Jones play similar type games. The big advantage for the Raptors in the deal may be the fact that Dixon is under contract for only this season and next, for a total of $5.25 million US, while Jones has two more years after this season, for a total of $9.9 million, including this season's payout.

MORE FLEXIBILITY

"That fact that there is one fewer year on the deal is attractive to the flexibility aspect of what we look for in the future," said Colangelo. "I always have an eye on the now, but you've got to always have the option to make adjustments, to make trades, to add players. And having one less year and a little less salary for the next two seasons is certainly an attractive part of the deal."

In order to get the Trail Blazers to sign off on the transaction, Jones agreed to waive the third year of his deal in the hopes of earning more money as a free agent.

Colangelo said he is delighted to give the Portland native a chance to revive his career at home.

"It's a feel-good story for both sides," he said. "It's not a matter of us necessarily cutting our losses, it's a matter of us finding that workable solution for the player."

Jones said the chance to play in front of his family and friends is "a dream come true."

"I have no bitterness at all," Jones told The Score, when asked about his thoughts on the Raptors. "I loved every minute I played here, I loved my teammates, we had a lot of fun together. I believe they're doing a good job ... and they're going to surprise a lot of people in the days to come."

Jones joined the Raptors as a free agent July 26, 2006 following four seasons with the Indiana Pacers. He averaged 7.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 22.3 minutes in 39 games in a Raptors uniform.


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