Blazers notes: Lineup set for preseason opener

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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TUALATIN, Ore. — On Monday, head coach Terry Stotts announced starters for the Trail Blazers' first preseason game.

No big surprises, Stotts will go with rookie Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews in the backcourt alongside forwards Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and 6-foot-9 J.J. Hickson anchoring the front court.

The four veterans only started one game together last season — a 119-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves — but on that April Fool's night, Aldridge started at center while Hickson played power forward.

However, Hickson, who averaged 15.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 0.95 blocks in 19 games as a Blazer, has carried over last season's momentum into training camp and he becomes the introductory center over 7-1 rookie Meyers Leonard.

"As I said from day one, (Hickson's) the incumbent. He played well last year. I think there is a good feel for him out there," Stotts said. "He's played well in practice. He's played well, and I want to look at him at center first."

The Blazers open the preseason in Ontario, Calif., against the Los Angeles Lakers.

• Stotts believes in the zone, and so will the Blazers this season.

"Zone will be part of our defensive package," Stotts declared after practice. "It allows you to have some flexibility in your lineup, it allows you to change up the flow of the game.

"If there's a play that's giving you trouble or a matchup that's giving you trouble, you can go to the zone until you figure it out. It allows you keep a lineup on the court that you like, so some games it's better than others. In Dallas, the zone won us a lot of games. I don't know if it's lost us a games but it did win us some games."

• Still, the Blazers haven't forgotten about the other side of the floor.

On Monday, the team continued installing offensive sets -- basic "motion" and "flow" looks that should end in the hands of its All-Star.

"When we need to call a play, when we need to get the ball to somebody, we can," Stotts said. "LaMarcus was getting the ball, but now I know how to get LaMarcus the ball."

For more notes and observations from Monday's practice, read the Blazer Banter Blog at http://www.columbian.com/weblogs/blazerbanter