Ex-Terps NBA roundup
Tracking former Maryland players in the pros
Joe Smith has been a force for the Cleveland Cavaliers off the bench. He had 18 points and five rebounds in just 26 minutes during Monday's 88-80 win against the Portland Trail Blazers. Prior to this game, Smith had 12 points and eight rebounds in a 103-95 win against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. He is shooting 47.5 percent in his last five games, and averaging 10.2 points and seven rebounds. Smith may see more time in the coming weeks though -- center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is expected to be out at least two weeks with a strained back, leaving the frontcourt thin.
Juan Dixon has been largely confined to the bench since his trade from the Toronto Raptors to the Detroit Pistons. He logged his best game as a Piston on March 1, scoring 14 points and dropping six assists in a 103-73 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers. On Friday, Dixon chipped in with nine points and four assists in Detroit's 101-97 win over the New York Knicks. Dixon has been averaging 15.2 minutes per game in his last five games, with an average of 6.6 points and 2.4 assists.
Chris Wilcox, Seattle SuperSonics
Chris Wilcox has been a steady contributor for the Seattle SuperSonics, posting back-to-back double-doubles on March 2 and March 4. He scored 20 points in a 117-83 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, and recorded 28 points and 10 rebounds in Sunday's 114-106 loss to the Raptors. Despite Wilcox's efforts, the Sonics are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. He is averaging 18.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in his last five games.
Steve Blake, Portland Trail Blazers
Steve Blake had a big game Friday, scoring 21 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing a steal in Portland's 103-101 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. He followed that game with 15 points and 10 assists in a 120-114 win over the Knicks on Saturday. Blake contributed seven points and eight assists in an 88-80 loss to the Cavaliers on Monday.
DJ Strawberry, Phoenix Suns
DJ Strawberry hasn't played in the last five games. With the Phoenix Suns searching for offensive rhythm since the Shaquille O'Neal trade, fans can probably expect to see a lot less of Strawberry in the coming weeks.
"So I don't want to play Steve (Nash), I want to play D.J.?," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni told the East Valley (Ariz.) Tribune. "I'm getting ticked (at the questions) because our starters play less minutes than anybody in the league. And if we play our starters less than their starters, you usually don't win. If (New Orleans guard) Chris Paul is on the floor and he's playing 40 minutes a game, I've got to have the MVP (Nash) out there or we don't win. The object is to win, it's not to play everybody and have a good time and have everybody go home friends. The object is to win."
The Suns have won just two of their last five games.
Steve Francis, Houston Rockets
The Houston Chronicle reports that Steve Francis returned to practice last Tuesday for the first time since his surgery a week earlier to repair a torn quadriceps tendon in his right knee. Hobbling around on crutches, Francis told the Chronicle, "I'm just relaxing, going to rehab. We're looking at probably three to four months of rehab, probably get to running in July or August." It was also reported that Francis plans to exercise his option to return next season. The Rockets have won 19 games in a row, dating back to Jan. 29. Francis has not played since Dec. 15.