The Blazers have now officially announced the signings of first round picks Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard, and the one-year signing of free agent power forward J.J. Hickson. Nicolas Batum, however, is still where he was yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that: not officially on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster, and not officially no longer a Blazer.
Here’s Portland’s press release RE: Lillard and Meyers:
TRAIL BLAZERS SIGN FIRST ROUND PICKS DAMIAN LILLARD AND MEYERS LEONARD
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers have signed rookies Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard, it was announced today by General Manager Neil Olshey. Per team policy, terms of the deals were not disclosed.
The Trail Blazers selected Lillard, 21, with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. A four-year guard from Weber State, Lillard averaged 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.25 steals during his collegiate career. The two-time Big Sky Conference MVP and Oakland, Calif., native placed second in the nation in scoring last season with 24.6 points per game (46.7% FG), earning Associated Press All-American Third Team honors.
Taken by Portland with the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft, Leonard, 20, posted averages of 13.6 points (58.4% FG), 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.88 blocks per game as a sophomore at Illinois last season. Leonard earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors while leading the conference in blocked shots and placing third in rebounds per game in 2011-12.
The signings of two lottery picks is perfunctory. I’m sure lottery guys in the NBA have refused to play for the team that drafted them, including this former Blazer, but Lillard and Leonard weren’t going in that direction. They are now officially Blazers and officially professional basketball players, and it’s on them to go out and earn those first paychecks, beginning very soon in the Las Vegas Summer League.
The J.J. Hickson signing was less of a sure-thing than Portland making it legit with their two newest prize possessions. A few months ago former RCPer Sean Highkin broke down the Hickson Situation over at the Portland Roundball Society, I recommend brushing up on his analysis.
Initially, I thought it was probable that Hickson would be brought back for 2012-13, especially since he was basically the only thing bringing folks into the Rose Garden there at the end. That being said, if somebody came knocking with a fat deal for J.J. I was ready to say thanks for your time and best of luck in the future.
The situation changed a little bit when Portland was unable to land Roy Hibbert, one of the big fish, at least the tallest fish, this free agent season. Also, I imagine that the Blazers might feel just a tad more comfortable heading into the summer with more than two rotation players under contract.
Portland’s hedging a little with J.J. They’re signing him for just one year. It’s a win-win for Portland, and really a win-win for Hickson. The Blazers basically get an extended rental on a guy that played well enough in 19 games to become something of a fan favorite and garner the nickname Highlight Hickson. J.J. gets the benefit of a second contract season, one in which there was no lockout and he wasn’t waived 19 games from the finish line. I’m for this move. Here’s J.J. signing his new deal.
Here’s the press release:
TRAIL BLAZERS SIGN FORWARD J.J. HICKSON
Hickson played final 19 games in Portland last season
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers have signed forward J.J. Hickson, it was announced today by General Manager Neil Olshey. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Trail Blazers signed Hickson, 23, on March 21 for the remainder of last season after he was waived by Sacramento on March 19. He appeared in each of Portland’s final 19 games in 2011-12, including 10 starts.
“J.J. played very well for Portland late last year and we’re pleased to be able to bring him back for another season,” said Olshey. “He’s a very special athlete that will offer some depth on the front line and we expect him to pick up where he left off in April.”
Last season with Portland, Hickson averaged 15.1 points (54.3% FG), 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.95 blocks in 31.6 minutes per game. He led the Trail Blazers in rebounding and field goal percentage, while ranking third in scoring during his time in Portland. Hickson’s six double-doubles in the month of April tied for sixth in the NBA.
In four NBA seasons with Cleveland, Sacramento and Portland, Hickson has compiled averages of 9.0 points (49.0% FG), 5.8 rebounds and 21.3 minutes in 277 games (158 starts). He was originally selected by the Cavaliers with the 19th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.
And then there’s Batum. The deluge of writings about Nicolas Batum has gotten to extreme to read all of them. So far nothing has changed, although now there’s a trade kicker on the deal and the deal hasn’t shown up in Portland. The Batum story has bled over into the national basketball blog-o-verse, and the tenor of the story on a national level, primarily the Who is Nicolas Batum? and Why Are Blazer Fans Freaking Out Over A Guy That Is Getting Paid Way More Than He’s Worth? stuff, is a bit different than it is in Rip City.
Here’s Matt Calkins’ take on Nicolas, presaging what might be coming if and when Nicolas Batum’s $46 million (or whatever) deal from Minnesota is matched.
What’s your take?
Portland has now officially signed Joel Freeland, another draftee from across the pond I would have put a lot of money on never making it to the NBA in a Portland jersey. The beat goes on.
Here’s the press release:
TRAIL BLAZERS SIGN BRITISH FORWARD JOEL FREELAND
Portland selected Freeland with 30th overall pick in 2006 NBA Draft
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers have signed forward Joel Freeland, it was announced today by General Manager Neil Olshey. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Trail Blazers’ 30th overall selection in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft, Freeland joins the Trail Blazers from Unicaja Malaga in the Spanish ACB League.
“The timing was right to bring Joel over and we’re thrilled it worked out,” said Olshey. “He is a rugged interior player with a nice touch around the basket and he plays hard every game. Joel will be a nice addition to the roster.”
Over the past three seasons with Unicaja Malaga, Freeland (6-11, 225) posted averages of 12.6 points (55.3% FG), 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 24.6 minutes in Euroleague and ACB play. He spent the previous three seasons with Gran Canaria, also of the Spanish ACB League.
Freeland, 25, is a starter for the Great Britain national basketball team, which will compete as the host country in this summer’s London Olympics. A native of Farnham, England, he led the national team with 15 points in a game vs. Spain earlier this week.
He will wear No. 19 with the Trail Blazers.