Los Angeles Lakers: J.J. Hickson

Lakers at Blazers: What to watch

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
11:08
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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No rest for the winless. Upon wrapping up a disappointing debut against the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers hopped a plane to the great Northwest for a date with the Portland Trail Blazers. For the past decade or so, the Rose Garden has served as purple-and-gold Kryptonite. Blame it on the energy from a rabid fan base, a typically solid roster or the rain, but whatever the reason, Portland's been a tough place to score a road victory, even during championship seasons. However, the Blazers are in the midst of a post-Brandon Roy/Greg Oden/Nate McMillan facelift, and the results aren't expected by most to be immediately pretty.

Will this developmental stage equal an easier road in the Rose City and the first Lakers' win of the season? For more perspective, I conducted an IM discussion with Andrew Tonry of the True Hoop network's Portland Roundball Society. Below is the transcript:

Andy Kamenetzky: Like the Lakers, the Blazers have undergone a lot of roster changes. What's your general impression of this team?

Andrew Tonry: I hate to say it, but the forecast for the season looks a lot like the Portland weather: cold, dark and grey. The team is rebuilding. (As a Laker follower, you may forget how that works.) While there are pieces to be excited about -- rookie point guard Damian Lillard, for example -- Portland simply lacks talent. Perhaps half of their roster is true NBA-level players, and the top -- LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum -- have yet to prove themselves as guys truly capable of leading a playoff-bound squad.

AK: What are Portland's strengths and weaknesses so far?

AT: New Blazers coach Terry Stotts gets a lot of credit for Dallas' offensive schemes over the last few seasons. He's come to Portland with a plan to open things up with more movement and dynamism. The Blazers leaders -- Aldridge and Batum -- are guys who've shown the most promise on the offensive end. Defense, however, will be the sticking point. Nobody on Portland's roster is particularly known for defense, especially around the rim, where the Blazers will start J.J. Hickson, a natural power-forward, at center.

Even more than defensive deficiencies, the Blazers will be hurt by a wafer-thin bench. As I mentioned earlier, most of the guys in the second unit are players who lucked their way onto the roster because bodies were needed.

AK: As a natural forward playing center, how do you anticipate Hickson handling the matchup against Howard?

AT: I anticipate Hickson getting manhandled. I also anticipate rookie Meyers Leonard getting some minutes, and for what it's worth, he's a true 7-footer, one of the few players in the NBA with the size, strength and quickness to match Howard's. But it's too early to expect much. Leonard has a lot to learn, including how to stay out of foul trouble.

The Lakers starters haven't had much time together. How long do you expect it'll be until they become a cohesive unit? And until their potential is reached?

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0