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• Newly-signed guard Gilbert Arenas is ticketed for some duty for Memphis tonight. “I don’t know how much he can go, but if there’s an opportunity to put him in the game, I’m sure I will,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “I asked him this morning if he is ready to play. He said yes, but he didn’t know how many minutes. I’m not worried about that. I just want him to get in the game and get him a feel for what we’re doing. It’s like, ‘Don’t try to be somebody else; just be Gilbert.’”
• Portland interim coach Kaleb Canales said it is “probable” newly acquired J.J. Hickson sees some action tonight. The 6-9, 240-pound Hickson, who averaged 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds last season for Cleveland, was picked up on waivers from Sacramento, where he had played sparingly. “He’s very athletic, can score around the basket, has a nice touch, can get up and down the floor,” Canales said.
• Though Portland’s other new acquisitions, guard Jonny Flynn and center Hasheem Thabeet, went through practice Wednesday, there’s no indication they’ll see more duty tonight. “Whatever the game dictates tonight, we’ll make our proper adjustments going forward,” Canales said.
• The Blazers have relinquished 115 points (Oklahoma City) and 116 (Milwaukee) in their last two games. Improved defense is a priority tonight. “We talked about our defensive goals at shootaround,” Canales said. “We don’t want to ever allow 30-point quarters, but we did in the second quarter (against the Bucks). We had good juice and energy to start the game, but we have to maintain that energy. We’ve talked about our identity — we want to hang our hat on the defensive end of the floor.”
• Defense is a focus, too, for Memphis, which lost 119-110 at Sacramento Tuesday night. “But (the Kings) played well,” Hollins said. “They moved the ball and made shots and made us look like the Washington Generals in the first quarter.”
• Hollins wants power forward Zach Randolph — back three games now following knee surgery — to fit in to what the Grizzlies are doing, not take over the offense. “It’s about rhythm and doing the things we need him to do that he was doing before he got hurt last year — playing defense, being in the right spot, making the right rotation on pick-and-roll defense,” Hollins said. “The scoring will be there.
“The big thing is for him to blend in and be one of the guys initially and not try to be the guy we go to, because he’s not capable of that yet. We played a lot of games without him, and a lot of guys stepped up and played well. We’ve changed and have a new identity now. It’s important we gradually integrate him back and don’t all of a sudden stop playing how we were playing. He’s not ready to carry that kind of load, and (if he tries to do that) other guys aren’t effective and we won’t win any games.”
– Kerry Eggers