Switching To Center
During his four years in the league, Hickson has had three area codes on his resume, playing his first three seasons in Cleveland before moving to Sacramento for the beginning of the 2011-12 abbreviated season and finishing out the year in Portland.
His nineteen games in a Blazers uniform last year was just a teaser of what fans should expect from the fifth year forward/center.
On March 21, 2012, the Portland Trail Blazers, who were dealing with struggles and hard times of their own, plucked Hickson off of the NBA waiver wire two days after the Sacramento Kings released his rights.
In his audition with the Blazers, Hickson found himself filling for both LaMarcus Aldridge and whichever big man was healthy enough to lace em up to play the post (Marcus Camby, Joel Pryzbilla, Kurt Thomas).
Starting in ten of the nineteen games and playing roughly thirty minutes a night, Hickson averaged 15.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and nearly a block a game.
During that short stint, the 23 year old forward not only impressed the Rose Garden faithful, but more importantly wowed the Blazers front office enough to warrant a one year, $4.0 million contract for the 2012-13 season.
Ready to prove that not only is he worth the one year salary, but that he can also be a key contributor for the Blazers rebuilding project.
Hickson has started the 2012-13 preseason where he left off last year
In two games (which like summer league have to sometimes be taken with a grain of salt), the North Carolina State product has averaged 8.5 points, 6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in about 20 minutes of floor time.
While Hickson has struggled the last two years with his field goal percentage (45% in 2010-11 and 37% during his run with the Kings last year), he has apparently found his knack with the Blazers, hitting for over half of his attempts last year and sitting right at 50% throughout the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
With LaMarcus Aldridge secured as the starting power forward, Coach Terry Stotts has two options to choose from this season.
He can either go slightly smaller by moving Aldridge to the five spot and play the 6’9″ Hickson at the four, or Stott’s can start rookie Myers Leonard at the pivot and bring Hickson off the bench in an energizer role for either of the two.
In an interview with the Portland Tribune, it appears as though Stotts feels the same high regard for Hickson that many Blazers fans do.
“I’m not going to say who the starter will be; that’s what training camp is for,” Stotts says. “But I don’t want to dismiss what J.J. did for the team last year.
He earned the right to come in and have that position to start camp. He earned a (one-year free-agent) contract, he earned minutes and the team played well with him on the court.
That works in his favor.
“J.J.’s not the prototypical center, but he complements LaMarcus (Aldridge) well. He’s a big guy, strong and athletic, and what he can do defensively against pick-and-rolls with his athleticism will help us.”
If Hickson can in fact continue where he left off last season for the Blazers, the present and future of the club might not be as hard a pill to swallow as many expect.