Dixon feeling at home

MIKE GANTER

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

After a season that began with plenty of uncertainty, Juan Dixon appears to have found his place in Toronto.

The Raptors shooting guard started the year with the Portland Trail Blazers, who were working two highly touted rookies -- point guard Brandon Roy and centre LeMarcus Aldridge into their lineup.

The newcomers meant a change in Dixon's role with the team and it's one he admits he never really got comfortable with.

So no one was happier than Dixon when Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo swung that trade deadline deal that sent Fred Jones out to Portland and brought Dixon to Toronto.

"This is a good situation for me," Dixon said recently. "When I heard Toronto was interested in making a trade, my eyes lit up. I love the way this team plays basketball, how they get up and down the floor, share the basketball and most importantly coach (Sam) Mitchell allows his players to play free. He'll give you opportunities to screw up out there but one too many and you have to come out. I have a lot of fun here and I'm glad I'm a Toronto Raptor."

Dixon's role here has been expanding quite a bit lately with the injuries that have cut into Mitchell's options. Dixon started at shooting guard Wednesday night in a win over the Miami Heat with Anthony Parker sliding over into the injured Jorge Garbajosa's old spot at small forward. Dixon had 18 points in the game.

Last night, facing a bigger opponent, Mitchell started Joey Graham at small forward returning Parker to shooting guard.

Regardless of whether he's starting or not, there are more minutes out there for Dixon and the entire Raptors bench.

"There's an opportunity for me to play more minutes and I have to take advantage of it," Dixon said.

He feels Mitchell's approach to the game helps bring out the best in him.

"I'm doing things now that I wouldn't have thought about doing in Portland," Dixon said. "I'm not knocking the Portland coaching staff. They're great guys. I just never got a feel for coach McMillan's system."

Last night's game was as close to a homecoming as Dixon can have. He grew up in nearby Baltimore and led the University of Maryland to an NCAA title in 2002. Dixon was drafted by the Washington Wizards, 17th overall in 2002, and played there three years before moving on to Portland as a free agent.

He had the rare honour of being applauded by the Wizards fan base the first time he returned as a visitor. This will mark his third game played at the Verizon Center this season having played one earlier in the year with Portland.


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