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Blazers to start Hickson at center. They open against Lakers.


Portland Trail Blazers’ J.J. Hickson poses during the NBA basketball team’s media day photo session in Portland, Ore., Monday ,Oct. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)


It’s looked more and more through the preseason like this was the direction things were headed.

At 6’9” J.J. Hickson is not a traditional center by any means, but he is going to get the starting five job in Portland this season. At least on opening night. New coach Terry Stotts announced his decision Tuesday and Joe Freeman of the Oregonian tweeted the explanation.

Stotts on decision to start Hickson: “Meyers (Leonard) and Joel (Freeland) are playing well, but I think J.J. has earned the starting spot.”

— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) October 23, 2012

The challenge — the Blazers open the season against the Los Angeles Lakers. The team with Dwight Howard in the paint.

Now, you could theoretically move LaMarcus Aldridge over to cover Howard, but then Hickson has to cover Pau Gasol. That still doesn’t work.

However, outside of the Lakers — whose front line causes matchup nightmares for every team save Memphis — the Hickson move could work well if he plays closer to his potential then we have seen in the past. It gives the Blazers an athletic team that can run, can play inside and out and can cause matchup problems of their own. It could work. Personally I’m not sold, I might let rookie Meyers Leonard learn on the job.

Against teams with a more traditional center the Trail Blazers can always lean more on Leonard and Joel Freeland, but Hickson makes them potentially more dynamic. It’s worth a shot. I guess.