JJ Hickson Q+A
The big man speaks on the trade, joining the Kings and his time in Cleveland.
by Brendan Bowers / @StepienRules
JJ Hickson was traded on June 30 to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Omri Casspi just hours before the collective bargaining agreement expired and the NBA locked out its players. After being selected 19th overall in 2008 by Cleveland, Hickson averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds for the three years he played as a member of the Cavaliers.
This past season he made 66 starts for the Cavs, averaging 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field. Hickson will enter his fourth year in the League as a member of the Kings—as soon as this lockout ends—and he’s still only 22-years old. I caught up with JJ this last Thursday and we talked about the trade that sent him to Sacramento, his time playing in Cleveland and the next chapter of his NBA career.
SLAM: Were you surprised when the trade was announced, how did you find out, and what if any conversations did you have with Cavs GM Chris Grant about the decision?
JJ Hickson: As far as me and Chris Grant, I wish him the best, I wish the organization the best, but we didn’t have any conversations that afternoon as far as which direction the organization was heading in. I got the call from my agent the morning of the trade to let me know that it was a process that was in motion, and by the time I got up there and was getting ready to go to my workouts I got the call again. My agent Andy Miller told me the trade was finalized then, and that I was going to Sacramento.
SLAM: Do you feel in some ways like you had unfinished business in Cleveland that the trade prevented you from being able to accomplish?
JH: Of course I would have loved to have come back and tried to redeem the organization, but things happen for a reason and I’m happy to be a King now. I wish that organization the best of luck, but I’m King now, and I’m just looking forward to being out in Sacramento, meeting my new teammates, and getting off to a good start – whenever it is the season starts back up.
SLAM: How would you like the Cavs fans who supported you in Cleveland to remember you for your time there?
JH: As a hard worker, and a player that is going to give it his all. I might have my moments where I had lapses, but that’s part of development, and I think I developed well while I was in Cleveland. I have to give Cleveland credit for almost everything I know in the NBA because that’s the only team I played for during my first three years in the League, so I give credit where credit is due. They put me in a great situation to develop into a better player, and I think I did that in the time I was there.
SLAM: How would you categorize your relationship with Byron Scott this past season? It was reported that you guys had run-ins, was that overblown at all?
JH: I think it was no secret that we had our ups and downs. It was kinda rocky at the beginning of the season, but I think towards the end of the season when we started playing better basketball and winning a little more games I think our relationship got a lot better. Coach Scott is a great coach, he was a great player, he won a Championship, and like I keep saying I wish them nothing but the best of luck. Me and Coach Scott are still cool, and there’s no hard feelings at all. We had our differences, but that’s in the past, and I wish him the best.
SLAM: You mentioned the lapses you had at times, but you also turned in some of your best performances last season against the Amar’e Stoudemires and Blake Griffins of the world. Is bringing that same intensity and focus that you had against those guys every night, no matter who you’re matched up with, something you’re focused on improving for next season, and what is the upside for you if you do that?
JH: I’m really not happy that I let that perception get out as far that approach to the bigger name players goes, but I have to continue to put that upon myself to get up for every game no matter who I’m playing. Whether I’m playing Amar’e, Blake, or whoever, I have to get up there and have that same intensity every night. I think that’s what makes players great in the NBA, in that they give it their all every night, and they have that same intensity every night. So I have to do a better job at doing that. And I think when I do that, the sky is the limit for me.
JH: It worked for me a lot last season, but with the season we were having, I didn’t have the luxury to work on my game in the actual game during the season. As the season went on, I went back to the basics, got in the paint, and did what I know how to do and that’s dunking the basketball, getting rebounds, and getting dirty in the paint, and think that paid off for me and my teammates.
SLAM: As far as getting in the paint, you played both the five and four last season. How do you view yourself moving forward, as a combo big, a Power Forward, or a Center?
JH: I see myself as a straight Power Forward, but last year with the way our season was going, and the injuries that we had, I had to make a sacrifice for my team and I did it with no questions asked in playing the five for the majority of the year. It was kinda what I did playing the four, in that I think I exceled, but like I said I made a sacrifice for my team in playing the five for most of the season and I have no regrets about it. I think I’m a team player, and whatever my team needs me to do I’m going to do.
SLAM: With the trade coming just before the lockout, have you had a chance to have conversations with the Kings as far as how they plan to use you next season? Or did it happen so fast that you haven’t been able to talk to anybody yet?
JH: It happened so fast, I did talk to a couple of the coaches, but it had to be brief because the lockout was about to happen. So I could only talk to them to for a second, but I told them it was great to be a King now and they were happy to have me. We didn’t get a chance to get into what my role will be on the team, or what direction we’re heading in, but once the season starts back up I think that’ll be one of the first things we discuss and we’ll go from there.
SLAM: Do you see yourself as a starter for the Kings, or a guy coming off the bench for them?
JH: At the end of the day I’m a competitor, so of course my goal is to start. But like I said, I’m a team player, and whatever Coach asks me to do that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.
SLAM: Have you gotten a chance to talk to Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, maybe Jimmer Fredette, or anybody else on the team yet?
JH: No, I haven’t gotten the chance to talk with any of those guys. I’ve had conversations in the past with a couple of those guys just from us being in the same high school class and all that though. I know the team is pretty young, I’m pretty young myself, but with that being said I still see myself as a vet on that team even though we’re all around the same age. But it’s going to be fun to get out there and get up and down the floor with a bunch of young guys, and I’m looking forward to it.
SLAM: As far as your age goes, I think people forget that there were players just drafted in the first round this past June who played with you in your McDonald’s All American game. Do you think the Cavaliers rushed to judgment by trading you in some ways?
JH: I’ll be honest with you, I think they rushed to judgment a little bit. But, they got what they got and the Kings got a great player in JJ Hickson. So when the season starts, we’ll see how it pans out from there.
SLAM: What are you up to now as far as the lockout goes?
JH: I’m in Vegas working out, we’re getting a lot of work in, working on my jumper a lot, getting back in the paint, and just staying in shape and staying conditioned. I’m going real hard right now, my confidence right now is at an all-time high, I know what I’m working on and I know the things that we’re doing, and I think the sky is the limit for me. I’m just out here staying focused and trying to work hard.
SLAM: Have you had any contact from teams about playing overseas, or do you have any interest in playing overseas during this lockout?
JH: As of now, no, but that’s as of now. I can’t speak to what’s going to happen in the future. If teams try to contact me then we’ll sit down and talk and I’ll discuss that with my family and my agent. But as of right now, no.
SLAM: What would your message be to Cavs fans, and fans of yours in Cleveland, that you wanted to say to them before you enter the next chapter of your career?
JH: I loved the fans in the Cleveland to the bottom of my heart. Even though we had the season we had last year, they still came out and showed their support. In a lot of the games that we won, I think they got those couple of games that we won for us because they were our sixth man. It was bittersweet for me because I loved those fans, and like I said, best of luck to that organization. But I’m a King now, and I gotta look forward.
SLAM: So much talk over the last couple years has been about your potential. What is your potential, and what do you think you can be in this League when it’s all said and done?
JH: I can’t speak on the future, I can just speak on now, and right now I’m just working on my game, and my confidence is at an all-time high. I can’t wait for the season to start back up, and I think you’re gonna see my game open up and blossom when it does. So like I said man, I’m just looking forward to getting back on the court, starting this new chapter of my career, and when the season starts we’ll see how it all pans out.