SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena, there was J.J. Hickson grabbing 13 boards against the Kings, which was after 18 rebounds a day earlier against the Hawks and 14 rebounds two days before that against the Spurs. After everything.
Hickson has gone from the Cavaliers giving up on him … to the Kings really giving up on him … to the Trail Blazers spending the No. 11 pick on a center to eventually replace him … to being impossible to pull from the starting lineup. That’s impressive enough. That it has all happened in 16 ½ months is more like unbelievable.
June 2011: The player Cleveland once refused to include in an Amar’e Stoudemire trade package with the Suns, causing the deal to collapse, is traded from the Cavaliers to Kings for backup forward Omri Casspi and a first-round choice.
March 2012: Hickson is cut by Sacramento less than three months into the season, then signed by the Trail Blazers to help the Portland roster limp across the finish line.
October/November 2012: Hickson, re-signed as a free agent during the summer, is averaging 11.9 rebounds a game and has five double-doubles, tops on the team.
“It was tough,” he said of the path. “I’m glad I’m in the position I’m in now. It shows that hard work does pay off. For me, it’s all about being consistent and finding a home in this league. And I think I found my home with the Blazers.”
Meyers Leonard, the lottery-pick center out of Illinois, would have been at least a year away from real impact anyway, maybe two. Hickson, though, has played well enough to end any debate over the opening lineup before it started. Coach Terry Stotts gave the informal nod to Hickson heading into camp, as the closest thing the Trail Blazers had to an incumbent there, and hasn’t had to adjust.