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DENVER – Denver Nuggets forward JJ Hickson didn’t hold back Friday morning when asked about his time with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Hickson, who averaged 10.4 points and 12.7 rebounds for the Trail Blazers last season, says Portland is a special city to him and always will be. He just elaborated on why he's irked with comments the general manager made about him. And in the process, he took a jab at his replacement.
“It just rubbed me the wrong way some of the comments that were made by [Trail Blazers general manager] Neil Olshey,” Hickson explained to CSNNW.com. “I heard something to the extent of, ‘For the Blazers to be better, we can’t bring JJ back.’ That was one of the ones that really caught my attention. I was like, ‘wait, what?’ And they go out there and get a new center [Robin Lopez] and he has only three rebounds.”
To be accurate, Lopez had two rebounds in that season-opening 104-91 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. But you get Hickson’s drift.
"He can say whatever he wants to say," Lopez responded. "I'm a true center."
The six-year veteran refused to name names, but he said he was disappointed with some of the current Trail Blazers who voiced their opinions publicly stating that they desperately needed to acquire a traditional center in the offseason.
At 6-9, Hickson played out of position at the center spot and lacked the defensive skill-set Portland was in dire need of. Yet still, he felt like he did all that he could do considering the situation.
“I was playing out of position,” he said. “I know for a fact that L (LaMarcus Aldridge) doesn’t like to play center. He doesn’t like it. He just doesn’t. He’s an All-Star so he’s going to trump whatever. I had no problem playing out of position. I feel like I did it to the best of my ability. I was one-of-six guys in the league to average a double-double, so I think I did pretty good.”
“As a player, he should use anything for motivation,” Aldridge said after learning about Hickson's comments to CSNNW.com. “So if he wants to use that to motivate him, that’s fine.”
The Sacramento Kings used to be the team Hickson had it in for being that they waived him after only 23 games during the lockout shortened 2011-12 season. Now he says Portland takes the cake.
“Portland definitely is that team,” he admitted. “Look, I had a great season with Portland. I felt like some strides should have been made to at least extend a hand to get me back. But I’m not going to do anything out of the ordinary tonight. I’m just going to play my game. I know how I play and I know what I do. I feel like they know, too.”
In all fairness, Portland did Hickson a huge favor in the summer of 2012.
According to a source briefed on the situation, says the Trail Blazers giving Hickson that one-year, $4 million offer was substantially more than what other teams were willing to pay to a player who had just come off of a inconsistent 2011-12 season between his time in Sacramento and Portland.
The platform of having a starting job, albeit at center, with starter minutes, helped him immensely in securing a three-year, $15 million deal with the Nuggets. There were not many or any opportunities for him to start at other places prior to the 2012-13 season.
While Portland could have simply offered Hickson a market value one-year deal in the $2 million range, the deep-rooted relationships that Olshey has with high-profile agents such as with his agent Andy Miller, allowed Hickson to be placed in a prime position going forward.
However, it still doesn’t take away the diss Hickson feels was directed towards him. He says he's amped for tonight’s game versus the Trail Blazers. In his words, “You know I’m going hard.”
He says it’s nothing personal. He would just have liked to have had a longer stay in Portland.
“I felt like I made tremendous strides from the first time I played with those guys,” Hickson said. “The relationship with my teammates was good. I was getting used to the city. I loved the fans. I felt like I built a great relationship with the fans. But it’s a business and things happen and now I’m a Nugget.”