The message on Cavaliers first round pick J.J. Hickson is mixed so far in Training Camp, literally. One needs only to take a quick look at today's headlines on Cleveland.com and Ohio.com.
The Cleveland angles proclaims, 'A good first impression: Cavs rookies Hickson, Jackson earn Brown's praise'
Ok, How about Ohio.com - 'Hickson shows growing pains; Cavs rookie appears to be having trouble playing defensive end'
So which is it? Probably a little bit of both. First, the Ohio.com article is written by Brian Windhorst, who I personally believe is the best beat reporter in the NBA, covering any team. His insight on what the Cavs players, coaches and front office are thinking, along with his inside knowledge on all things LeBron make his column a daily must in my RSS Feeder.
Windhorst implies in his piece that Hickson's age, he's 3 years younger than anyone on the team, is finally starting to get the best of him, especially on the defensive end.
While there was some belief that the 6-foot-9 inch forward could become an instant rotation player, some early training camp growing pains may be bringing everyone back to reality.
Now surrounded by all the veterans, Hickson is having some moments where he can't keep up, especially on the defensive end.
On Thursday, he had to bring several dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts to the morning practice, a normal rookie tradition. But the real hazing has been the demands of coach Mike Brown, whose expectation for perfection on
defense even in drills had Hickson admittedly surprised.
Not surprising. Defense in the NBA, esecially for a coach like Mike Brown who demands it form every player on the roster, is usually the last thing to come to a young player. Unfortunately, to see the light of the court during the season, Hickson is going to have to be effective defensively.
What does another Cavs writer, Mary Schmitt Boyer have to say about Hickson's progress?
The Cavaliers' first exhibition game is not until next Tuesday, but their two draft choices have made good impressions so far.
First-round pick J.J. Hickson has displayed his talent quicker than expected, and second-round pick Darnell Jackson is tougher than expected.
So, Windhorst's impressions are that Hickson is struggling a bit, Boyer suggests the Cavaliers are pleasantly surprised with Hickson's early progress. Who do we believe?
With all respect to Boyer, I have to stick with Windhorst. Perhaps it iis what I believe I know about basketball, and the transition of a young big man to the NBA game, that leads me that way. Hickson is very talented, but also very raw coming out of N.C. State. Mike Brown might be the most demanding defensive coach in the NBA, and he has shown two things in his tenure with the Wine and Gold - you will play defense, and if you don't you won't play.
While I agree that Brown's defensive style has helped the Cavs reach heights that were possibly above their talent level, this team is a bit different. I want to see the Cavs run, I want to see the athleticism and I want to see the Cavs score because that is what will keep LeBron energized night in and night out until he gets his second wind. If the Cavs slow it down, not only will Hickson likely not see any action, but LeBron will get "bored". The results when LBJ decides to take some time off while on the floor have never been good.
The Cavaliers have had their share of draft busts, and I believe part of the reason was the inability for guys like Shannon Brown to get on the floor early in their career. I am hoping Brown loosens the reigns a bit early in the season in order to allow Hickson to get some action while getting his feet wet. I'd rather use Hickson with a healthy Z and Ben Wallace behind him rather than needing to rely on Hickson to perform should there be an injury. I'll be watching Hickson closely when the Cavs tip off the Pre-Season next Tuesday.