I like J.J. Hickson. A lot. He's a good kid, but he drives coaches nuts. Tonight is a good example why.
Hickson played 16 minutes, but accomplished nothing except fouling Antawn Jamison on a 3-pointer. It could've been a four-point play, but Jamison missed the free throw.
I remember on draft night when fans were up in arms that the Cavs drafted Tristan Thompson when they already had Hickson on the roster. But here's the thing: The Cavs were never going to pay Hickson what he thought he was worth. And with an ominous lockout threatening to wipe out the entire season, they drafted Thompson and proactively traded Hickson rather than lose him for nothing.
Hickson is clearly pouting this year, and it's costing him millions. Byron Scott got through to him last year, convincing him to keep his rear end in the paint to rebound, defend and score inside. Kings coach Keith Smart hasn't been so fortunate. Hickson is drifting back to the outside again this year, hoisting jumper after jumper with little success.
While Hickson was complaining about getting traded out of Cleveland, Thompson was posting his first double-double and proving he might finally be past the sprained ankles that slowed what was a fast start to the season.
Thompson is quickly emerging as the Cavs' best option at center, even if it isn't his natural position -- much like last season when Hickson was the Cavs' best option when Anderson Varejao was injured.
Unlike Hickson, Thompson knows he is most effective in front of the basket. His game is still incredibly raw and there is plenty for him to work on (I'd say he's regressing on free throws, but I never saw much progress), but the Cavs are better off long term with Thompson than they were with Hickson.
Scott doesn't have to wonder what kind of effort he'll get out of Thompson on a given night. He also doesn't have to wonder if Thompson knows the offense. Both were concerns with Hickson, who still doesn't get it and has been benched for his mental lapses again this season
I hope it all clicks for J.J. one day. I hope he learns how to stay focused on the court and play aggressive every night.
If he ever figures out how to do that, he'll get the type of payday he wants because few guys in the league are more athletic than he is. But Hickson's big payday isn't coming this summer.
Had Hickson produced like he did last season, he'd probably coax $10 million a season out of some team desperate for bigs. But now he'll be very lucky if he earns even half that next season. Maybe that's the wake-up call he'll need. Maybe this summer, when teams aren't lining up for him, is when it will all click.
I hope some day it does. Like I said, I like the guy. He's a good kid. He just doesn't get it yet. Thompson does. The Cavs are better off for it.
Kyrie Irving 23 points, 1 assist
Antawn Jamison 21 points, 8 rebounds
Tristan Thompson 15 points, 12 rebounds
Omri Casspi, 6 points, 12 rebounds*
Isaiah Thomas 23 points*, 8 rebounds, 11 assists*
Marcus Thornton 21 points, 10 rebounds
DeMarcus Cousins 19 points, 9 rebounds
* - career high
The Kings shot 2 of 8 from the floor over the game's final three minutes
Kyrie Irving's free throws with 0.4 seconds left gave the Cavs the victory
"We got lucky tonight." -- Byron Scott
“After going through the season we went through last year, I didn’t want to come to a situation like this. I wanted to rebuild here (in Cleveland) … Unfortunately it happened and I’m a Sacramento King now.” -- J.J. Hickson
The Cavs (12-17) host the Detroit Pistons (11-22) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.