NBA Roundtable

LeBron Tutors Hickson

In General NBA on October 17, 2009 at 11:11 pm

I’ve heard this story three times already in preseason and will surely hear it countless times again during the season … but it is an interesting story so here it is:

Given that confluence of events, it’s easy to see why Hickson, 21, is looking forward to showcasing his skills this year.

”Last year, I would say I was playing on eggshells with [coach] Mike Brown and his defense, but this year, I’m a lot more comfortable with the defense and I know a lot more,” he said. ”I know the ins and outs of the defense and the offense. I’m playing real comfortable right now.”

During this preseason, Hickson’s play has been an eye-opener to coaches and fans. He’s averaging 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.

What accounts for his improvement? Hickson will tell you the reason, first and foremost, is being healthy.

”The back is at 110 percent right now,” he said. ”I did a lot of rehab over the summer and I’m ready to go in the season.”

He rested for much of the summer, then began hitting the weights. The result: Hickson looks stronger, plays with aggression and a lot more confidence. Where the power came from is obvious. The confidence? He got a little help from LeBron James, who took him under his wing the second half of the summer.

”Everywhere I went I had him with me because I knew the potential he had,” James said. ”And he’s definitely implementing everything he learned this summer from myself and himself.”

Hickson said they worked on his low-post game and shooting form. The results can be seen in his improved mid-range jump shot.

The article continues

”Before teams would dare him to shoot, and now he is shooting a lot better,” center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said.

The learning hasn’t stopped for Hickson either. With Shaquille O’Neal in a Cavs uniform, it’s only gotten more intense. O’Neal has stressed to Hickson the need for him to be consistent in his play.

”He’s a young kid who has a lot of raw talent. The good thing about him is he’s got a lot of good players to work with him,” O’Neal said. ”I was telling him you have to watch the so-called greats.

”You have to watch your so-called favorites and do what they do. Add a little bit of your own, then become the first J.J.”

More on the LeBron connection

”The maturity level has gone up in J.J. on the floor and off the floor to a certain degree,” Brown said. ”That’s not to say he was a kid last year.

”Yes, he was a young fellow and he did act his age, but just being around LeBron, who is a professional, helps anybody at that stage in their career.”

Hickson has been wise in taking James’ counsel. Given the way James came into the league and handled all the expectations and attention like a wily veteran, his advice is invaluable.

”When you’re a young guy, it’s about disciplining yourself,” James said. ”You come into the league and you’re so excited to be in the league, but you don’t know what it takes to be really good and what it takes to be outstanding on the court.”

James stressed to Hickson that he needs to be a professional at all times.

”You have to carry that attitude with you wherever you are,” James said. ”It’s more than just basketball and once he figures that out, basketball comes easy. It took him a year, but he’s back in focus and I think he realizes what it’s going to take for him to get on the court.”

Hickson sounds like he gets it.

”I’m just going to try to play. Whatever coach wants me to do, I’m with it,” he said. ”If I don’t play, I don’t play. I’m going to be a good teammate.”

It just goes to show you how much confidence LeBron James has in JJ Hickson’s ability.

Looking forward to seeing more from Hickson this season.

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