As referenced by O-Live and others, Mike Barrett is making much ado about Juan Dixon's pre-training camp workouts this week. Now normally this would fall solidly under the heading of Pre-Season Commandment #1 about not believing what you read about miraculous improvements. Nevertheless the official raising of his name does bring out a point that I was going to save for an interview a couple weeks from now, but I'll go ahead and make today anyway.
Don't be surprised to see Dixon mentioned more and more prominently in the Blazers' plans as the season approaches. I know nobody wants to hear his name because that means less of fan favorites Webster and Roy, but despite being the forgotten man he's going to be a viable, and maybe a primary, option at shooting guard at the start of the season. Here's why:
- The first month schedule is BRUTAL. Road games are Seattle, Golden State, Clippers, Minnesota, Cleveland, Boston, New Jersey, and Sacramento. Home games are Minnesota, Lakers, NO-OK, Dallas, San Antonio, New Jersey, Phoenix, and Indiana. We will not be favored in any of those games. Realistically we have a better chance of going 1-15 than we do of going 8-8. Nate is going to have to pull every trick in the book to squeeze out wins, and most of those tricks belong to vets. Plus he's probably not going to throw the young guys into that meat grinder right away, for fear of ruining their confidence. No doubt Roy and Webster will see playing time because there is no choice, but Dixon's veteran presence is going to look more and more attractive both to manufacture wins and to absorb the blow of losing.
- As it stands right now, the spot in our lineup that opponents will attempt to take advantage of is point guard, not because Jack is bad, but because he's young. They're going to look at an injured Dickau, rookies Rodriguez and Roy, and perhaps a lightly-regarded veteran backup sitting on the bench and say, "If we can bamboozle Jack, what are they going to do?" They'll throw the whole load at Jarrett: full-court presses, half-court traps...constant harassment up the wazoo. And unlike Telfair and Stoudamire before him, Jack is not an instant press-breaker. You can't leave him out there with four non-ball-handlers. He's going to need an outlet to take the pressure off. Who will that be? Not Zach or Joel for sure, nor any of the other big guys. Darius can handle well enough to help break full-court pressure but he's not capable of initiating the offense once he passes the timeline. Travis is obviously out. Ball-handling isn't really in Martell's repertoire either. Roy will eventually become a dribble-worthy off-guard, but as we said above his minutes are going to be controlled and limited the first month of the season to make sure he succeeds and he may start the season as Jack's backup at the point anyway. Guess who is left? That's right, our old friend JD.