Home opener offers Nuggets an opportunity to rebound
Denver kicks off Pepsi Center schedule against Northwest rival Portland
Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson had a bounce in his step as he went through low-post drills Thursday, and he ended his workout by dropping to the hardwood for a quick round of pushups.
He showed no residual effects of a 3 a.m. arrival or a physical matchup against Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins.
After an impressive debut with his new team, Hickson certainly will have plenty of energy Friday when the Nuggets open their home schedule against his previous team, the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I’m excited to play my previous team. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” he said. “But I’m not going to go out and do anything that I don’t (normally) do. I’m going to play my game and try to get a win.”
Waived by Sacramento during the 2011-12 season, Hickson signed with Portland and enjoyed a resurgence in the Pacific Northwest. He started 80 games for the Blazers last season, averaging 12.7 points and a career-high 10.3 rebounds.
Seeking a defensive-oriented big man during the offseason, Portland acquired center Robin Lopez and allowed Hickson to sign with Denver as a free agent.
“There’s no hard feelings between me and the organization at all,” Hickson said. “I appreciated the opportunity, and there’s no bad blood.
“I’m not going to put any extra emphasis on trying to score the ball or talking trash because I do that anyway. They know exactly what they’re getting, so it’s not going to be a surprise to anybody.”
The Nuggets loved what they saw from Hickson in their season-opener Wednesday night in Sacramento. He scored 12 points and added nine rebounds and four blocked shots while playing solid low-post defense on Cousins down the stretch.
The task doesn’t get any easier against Portland as Hickson will start out defensively against an elite power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge.
“He’s familiar with the guys that were on the team with him,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Just like myself, anytime I played against any teams that I played for, you come in with that added edge because you don’t want to lose against them.”
The Nuggets hope to get an edge from the Pepsi Center crowd, just as the Kings seemed to do in their building Wednesday.
“We definitely want to do the same,” Hickson said. “As with any home game, the crowd is the true sixth man. I think the crowd will definitely be into it.”
As they open a three-game homestand, the Nuggets will look to shore up some of the mistakes that hurt them in a 90-88 loss to the Kings.
Among other things, they committed 19 turnovers that led to 21 points, and they surrendered 19 second-chance points.
“Execution of small details,” Shaw said. “We have such a small margin of error, we have to do all the little things. We should win that game, but 19 turnovers for 21 points on top of those small details that we didn’t take care of is not going to get it done for us.”
TRAIL BLAZERS AT NUGGETS
WHEN: 7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver.
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950
F Nicolas Batum
F LaMarcus Aldridge
C Robin Lopez
G Wesley Matthews
G Damian Lillard
DENVER: Lawson (groin strain) is probable; Wilson Chandler (hamstring strain) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) are out.
PORTLAND: Earl Watson (left calf strain) is questionable. C.J. McCollum (fractured left foot) is out.
The Nuggets have won 23 of their last 25 home games over Portland . . . Denver is an impressive 27-12 (.692) overall against the Trail Blazers since 2003-04, with nine of the Blazers’ 12 wins coming in the past four seasons . . . The Nuggets have won the season series against Portland in seven of their last 11 years . . . Denver and Portland both registered 50+ wins in 2010-11 – prior to that year, the last time both teams finished with 50+ wins during the same season had been 1987-88 (Denver 54 and Portland 53).