If you thought J.J. Hickson got off to a scintillating start against the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday — 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting through 12 minutes — then you noticed a year-long trend with the Blazers' man in the middle.
Hickson, the 6-foot-9 center, might have finished the game with his 35th double-double of the season — but as usual, he did most of his offensive work in the first quarter.
This year through regulation, Hickson has averaged his most field goals and posted his best usage rate statistics through the first quarter.
Usage percentage measures the fraction of team plays used by a player when he is on the floor, and Hickson's first-quarter usage statistic reaches 21.5 percent — his best production by nearly 1.5 percentage points of any quarter.
Through Sunday's opening quarter, Hickson played lively — a screen and dive to the basket, an up-and-under move around the taller Robin Lopez, then a face-up against Lopez and fake right to take the middle of the lane and finish with a left-side layup. But even before his low-post activity, Hickson stepped outside for his first shot attempt and showed the vastly improved area of his game — sticking mid-range jumpers.
Previously in his career, Hickson was a train wreck from distance but now he's taking less shots from 16 feet out (49 attempts this season, compared to 187 attempts in 2010-2011) and making them at a higher rate, 57 percent. From 8 to 16 feet, Hickson has averaged 45.9 percent (28 of 49).
Nicolas Batum going fanboy at the Portland Timbers regular season-opening game last Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field. Batum, whose soccer career stalled as a child because his mother wanted him to play basketball, loves the beautiful game and often tweets during big international matches. Major League Soccer still has a way to go in matching the European standard but Batum, a native of France, didn't seem to mind.
"GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAL," read one of his tweets during the Timbers game.
The second quarter of doom in San Antonio.
Although the Trail Blazers ran away with one of their most impressive wins of the season Friday against the Spurs, some players could barely walk away from AT&T Center.
Rookies Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver both left the game with sprained ankles, their injuries happening mere minutes apart during the second quarter. Then with 1:51 remaining before halftime, Wesley Matthews went down in a heap of pain and held his ankle. Matthews finished the game and played well, but that second quarter cost the Blazers some depth in their rotation.
Turner Network Television.
This beef is personal because with the upcoming Blazers-Knicks game slated as the second in the NBA on TNT Thursday night doubleheader, that means the 7:30 p.m. start most certainly means sometime after 7:47 p.m. TNT doesn't care about a working journalist's deadlines as it breaks into the game incessantly to show promos for 'Boston's Finest.' And, really, we get it — 'Southland' is all new on Wednesdays at 10/9 Central. Now please stop with the TV timeouts and let's get on with the game already.