Portland Trail Blazers 6-9 power forward/center JJ Hickson has been receiving exploratory interest from a handful of teams looking to potentially swap for his services before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, a source close to the situation told CSNNW.com.
However, these teams have not made contact with Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey, just yet. The inquiring phone calls are going to Hickson's agent Andy Miller, first, the source said.
Here's why: Hickson is a Bird Rights player on a one-year, $4 million deal and he has the power to veto any trade that is proposed. If he approves a deal, he will lose his Bird Rights. It would have to be the right team and the right situation for Hickson to give up his rights.
The first step for interested General Managers is to find out if Hickson would entertain relocating to their team. If Hickson is on board, the second step would be placing a call to Olshey in hopes that a deal can be made that would benefit both sides.
“Yeah, I'll be lying if I said it wasn't an exciting time in my life,” Hickson told CSNNW.com. “It's also exciting to play on this team that everybody counted us out at the start. We're making a lot of noise in the Western Conference. I'm trying to make this playoff run if I'm here after the trade deadline. Obviously, I'll be happy either way because I can veto any trade.”
Hickson, 24, has arguably been the most reliable member of the Trail Blazers this season. He's averaging 12.2 points and a career-high 11.0 rebounds in 29.4 minutes a contest. Just last night in a 93-88 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he collected his 22nd double-double of the season, tied for third in the NBA.
Not to mention, he's putting up those number while playing out of position at the center spot. Still, Hickson couldn't be happier.
“I'm blessed to be in this the position and to know that I'm kind of a hot commodity right now,” Hickson said. “But all I can do is control what I can control on the basketball court and keep getting better.”
Hickson was picked up off of waivers last season by the Trail Blazers after the Sacramento Kings released him. In 19 games with the Trail Blazers that year, he averaged 15.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot 54 percent from the field. That was a huge discrepancy from the 4.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 37 percent shooting he was giving the Kings in 35 games.
That lack of consistency hurt Hickson during the 2012 free agency summer. The big payday never came. He eventually signed the one-year deal with the Trail Blazers.
Hickson said he probably went into the process with too high of expectations, but at the end of the day, he still came out on top and says the experience definitely helped him realize that being consistent pays.
“If you look at it, I'm on a one-year, $4 million dollar deal. My qualifying offer was for $3.5 million,” Hickson said. “If they would have picked up my qualifying offer, I would be making less money. It wasn't a disappointment, it was a wake up call for me to get better and for me to lock in and focus on being consistent. That's something I took upon myself to do and I think it's the first time throughout my career that I've been consistent.”
Note: Hickson's qualifying offer was for $4.4 million.