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Blazers to start Hickson at center. They open against Lakers.

Oct 23, 2012, 8:22 PM EDT

J.J.Hickson AP

It’s looked more and more through the preseason like this was the direction things were headed.

At 6’9” J.J. Hickson is not a traditional center by any means, but he is going to get the starting five job in Portland this season. At least on opening night. New coach Terry Stotts announced his decision Tuesday and Joe Freeman of the Oregonian tweeted the explanation.

The challenge — the Blazers open the season against the Los Angeles Lakers. The team with Dwight Howard in the paint.

Now, you could theoretically move LaMarcus Aldridge over to cover Howard, but then Hickson has to cover Pau Gasol. That still doesn’t work.

However, outside of the Lakers — whose front line causes matchup nightmares for every team save Memphis — the Hickson move could work well if he plays closer to his potential then we have seen in the past. It gives the Blazers an athletic team that can run, can play inside and out and can cause matchup problems of their own. It could work. Personally I’m not sold, I might let rookie Meyers Leonard learn on the job.

Against teams with a more traditional center the Trail Blazers can always lean more on Leonard and Joel Freeland, but Hickson makes them potentially more dynamic. It’s worth a shot. I guess.

  1. 00maltliquor - Oct 23, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    May the Lord have mercy on his soul! Dwight’s gonna KILL him.

    • guyaneserj - Oct 24, 2012 at 7:01 AM


    • beavertonsteve - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:55 PM

      Put it down – Howard goes 20-20 opening night.

  2. KC - Oct 23, 2012 at 8:58 PM

    Honestly Aldridge should be playing at C. Maybe it’ll toughen him up so he settles for less jumpers.

  3. tcclark - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    *save Memphis and Philly. Philly has Bynum and Hawes in the Back court. They are almost the exact same size, color, and shape as Howard and Gasol. Defensively they’re pretty close to Howard and Gasol, and Offensively they’re pretty damn close too – Bynum has a slightly stronger offensive game than Dwight with a few more post moves, and Hawes has almost the exact same game as Gasol, he’s just not nearly as good at it. Obviously the Lakers duo is better, but I don’t think you can say that they would give the Philly tandem fits.

    • manchestermiracle - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

      *Frontcourt. Guards play in the backcourt.

      • tcclark - Oct 24, 2012 at 3:49 PM

        i know. It was 12:38 AM when i wrote that. We all make mistakes

    • pglive21 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      The fact that you included Hawes makes your point moot. The 5 other players involved in your discussion (Howard, P. Gasol, Randolph, M. Gasol, and Bynum) are so far ahead of Hawes in every respect that your argument is invalid. If the 76ers had any sense they’d start Thad Young at PF so that Bynum has more room to operate down low. Howard doesn’t need it because he has a significant quickness advantage over Bynum.

      • tcclark - Oct 24, 2012 at 4:14 PM

        There are other teams with great front courts (Knicks, Pacers, and Hawks just to name a couple). The reason I mentioned Philadelphia is not because they were just as good, but because they match up well against them. Bynum matches up against Howard well, and while hawes isn’t the best player out there, he is 7 feet tall and can guard Gasol outside the paint. The whole point of this was to say that because they match up well, The Lakers frontcourt would not “give them nightmares”

        As for your second point, Hawes is the better pick to start. Surprisingly, Hawes is more of an outside player than Young, so he actually gives Bynum more room to operate inside. Young scores most of his points in the paint. Thad is also a better option coming off the bench than Hawes is. You need that spark in the second unit. Young is easily the better player, but hawes compliments Bynum like Gasol complimented Bynum.

  4. raystaypaid - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    I think Hickson on Gasol is just fine! I remember being at the Quicken Loans Arena when the Lebron-led Cavs played the Lakers, and Hickson outplayed Gasol – defended well, outrebounded, and made his free throws when Gasol didn’t. I thought Hickson was going to be a good NBA player until the Cavs traded him and messed up his progress, but if he put up numbers with the Cavs they’d have to pay him too much. I wish him the best in Portland and I think this will be just fine for them. As a rookie, Hickson struggled but in the Magic game he ended up getting injured in he had his moments defending Dwight (who isn’t extremely tall for a center) by using his base to get under him.

    That said, Gasol-Howard lobs should be able to overcome whatever anyone throws at the Lakers…

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