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Bobcats might target Dixon

The winds of today's expansion draft that will stock the NBA's new Charlotte Bobcats may sweep Baltimore native Juan Dixon out of the area.

The Bobcats will begin compiling their roster for play this fall with today's draft, selecting up to 14 players from the 29 other NBA teams, which were permitted to protect eight players under contract for next season.

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That process began last night with a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Bobcats shipped their fourth overall pick in Thursday's amateur draft and a second-round pick, the 33rd overall, to the Clippers for the second pick Thursday and a promise that Charlotte will take center Predrag Drobnjak in the expansion draft.

The trade sets the stage for the Bobcats, who were guaranteed the fourth pick in the college draft with the right to move up or down, to take either Connecticut center Emeka Okafor or Dwight Howard, a center from an Atlanta-area private high school, with the second pick after the Orlando Magic selects first.

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Bernie Bickerstaff, Charlotte's coach and general manager, said he plans to work out both Howard and Okafor today or tomorrow, taking whichever player is left.

Bickerstaff said the Bobcats could attempt to obtain additional considerations from the Magic in exchange for not taking a player in the expansion draft that could help Orlando make a deal for two-time scoring champion Tracy McGrady.

Meanwhile, Dixon, a 6-foot-3 guard from Calvert Hall who went on to lead Maryland to the national title in 2002, is on a list of players left unprotected by the Washington Wizards, according to Dixon's agent, Calvin Andrews.

Dixon reportedly is joined on the unprotected list by Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse and forward Christian Laettner, both of whom have had a measure of success in the NBA, not to mention their respective collegiate ties to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Stackhouse starred at North Carolina, Laettner at Duke.

However, Dixon, who has completed two seasons in Washington, may be the most attractive of the three exposed Wizards players because, at 25, he is younger than both Stackhouse (29) and Laettner (34).

More importantly for Charlotte, which can only spend 66 percent of the normal team salary cap, Dixon also makes considerably less - around $1.1 million next year. Stackhouse is scheduled to make around $7 million, and Laettner will earn $6.2 million next season.

"He's not concerned," said Andrews, who also represents Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic). "If he goes to Charlotte, he'll go there and make the most of the opportunity. If he's not taken, he'll go back to Washington and work hard. He's open-minded to either situation."

Dixon, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, has had a star-crossed tenure in Washington. After leading Maryland to the NCAA title as the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four, Dixon was taken by Washington as its second first-round choice (17th overall) in the 2002 draft, as the Wizards dealt guard Courtney Alexander to New Orleans for the pick.

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Dixon missed 40 games his rookie season with injuries, including an elbow ailment, but had the support of coach Doug Collins and teammate Michael Jordan, the team's de facto general manager, who selected Dixon.

However, when Jordan and Collins were swept out last season, Dixon had to prove himself all over again with new coach Eddie Jordan and president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld.

Dixon, who missed four games last season with a right ankle sprain, played in 71 of 78 games, starting in 16. He averaged 9.4 points a game, scoring a career-high 30 against Portland on Jan. 26.

But Dixon's penchant for shooting and 39-percent field-goal percentage dropped him out of favor with Eddie Jordan on occasion.

Dixon, who was 10th in the league in steals per 48 minutes, dropped behind his former Maryland backcourt mate Steve Blake in the Washington rotation, and members of the Wizards front office privately have said they aren't concerned about potential public relations fallout if the popular Dixon is taken by Charlotte.

Dixon might not stick in Charlotte even if he is taken by the Bobcats, who can, under league rules, select a player from one team to move him to another team for a player, draft picks and cash or a combination of all three.


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