Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey and Andy Miller, agent for forward/center J.J. Hickson, are prepared for team and player to potentially head their separate ways this offseason.
"For us to make a jump next season, J.J. can't be our starting center,'' Olshey said, referencing the Blazers' 47.4 points allowed in the paint per game, an NBA high. "I'm not saying he can't be part of the roster. But we need to find a starting-caliber center who protects the rim and gets defensive rebounds at a high rate and that has a presence. And we have to do a better job at defending the paint. So you have to ask: Is it likely there is enough minutes to commit the kind of dollars J.J. will command, when clearly there are other positions that need to be upgraded? Probably not.''
Andy Miller, who represents Hickson, said Olshey hasn't flat-out told him Hickson is not in the Blazers' plans, but Miller said he is under the impression that the Blazers will move in a different direction than Hickson.
"I think Neil has been fairly candid to me as far as where they stand,'' Miller said. "I don't feel confident about the situation. Earlier in the season there may have been mood swings and perspective swings where I felt the tide swinging, to where I felt that this would be more than a rental for both sides. But lately, I haven't felt that way at all. He definitely hasn't misled me.''
Earlier this week, Olshey made similar comments about the Blazers' need for a better fit at the five position.
We have J.J.'S Bird Rights. He has a very high cap hold ($7.98 million). It's not just a question of whether you bring him back. It's within the context of ... what positions would you not be able to bring in if you sign him?
We are the worst team in the NBA in points in the paint and protecting the rim. We've been disguising J.J., who has been a warrior and played hard all year, but there's a certain reality to playing a 6-8 power forward as your 5-man. That's not an indictment of J.J. He has played out of position and done all we've asked him to do. But we've become a 3 (small forward) and rim type of league. We have the 3-man down. Now defensively, we have to protect the rim better.
Olshey made somewhat similar comments about Hickson's role back in January.
The first step is, you've got to know what your starting lineup is. We went into the summer with two major question marks. One at point guard, one at center. I think we've answered the point guard situation.
We really like J.J. Hickson and he's clearly a quality NBA big. The question is can you can survive with a 6-foot-9 center, even if your power forward and franchise player is 6-foot-11? We're still evaluating that part of the process. What you don't want to do is take away your flexibility by building a bench when, at the end of the day, your starting lineup isn't good enough. Like I said, that will be an issue we'll address in the offseason.
Hickson, 24, is averaging 12.9 points and 10.6 rebounds while shooting 56.7 percent this season.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter