Rodney Hood: ‘This is my first time having DNPs in life’
Guard went from feared scorer in Utah to sitting on the bench in Cleveland
OAKLAND, California – More than 900,000 people have watched the YouTube video “Golden State Warriors vs Utah Jazz Full Game Highlights/Week 11/Dec 27. Perhaps one of the viewers was seldom-used Cleveland Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood, who scored 27 points on that night for the Jazz.
“At times when I may lose a little bit of confidence because of playing time or whatever, I look back to my Utah highlights a lot on YouTube just to remind myself that that was this [season] when I did those things,” Hood said.
This season has been a tale of two Rodney Hoods, one in Utah and the other in Cleveland.
The 6-foot-8-inch 206-pounder averaged career-highs of 16.8 points and 2.6 made 3-pointers on 38.9 percent shooting primarily coming off the bench in 39 games for the Jazz. The former Duke star scored at least 25 points in eight games. He scored 30 points and hit four 3-pointers in his second-to-last game in a Jazz uniform on Feb. 5.
With rookie guard Donovan Mitchell playing on an elite level, Hood became expendable for the Jazz. The Cavaliers acquired Hood as part of a three-team trade on Feb. 8. While the Jazz were a top-tier Western Conference team, Hood immediately faced much more pressure joining NBA star LeBron James and the title-contending Cavaliers.
Hood initially looked like a great fit for Cleveland. He scored 15 points and nailed three 3-pointers off the bench in his debut during a 121-99 victory over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 11. But Hood’s scoring dipped in Cleveland as he averaged 10.8 points on 44.2 percent shooting from the field and made 1.2 3-pointers per game in 21 regular-season contests.
Hood struggled offensively against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the postseason. His play worsened in the second round against the Toronto Raptors as he made 1 of 9 shots and averaged 0.7 points on 11.1 percent shooting from the field in the first four games. Hood also declined to go in the game with Cleveland up 30 in the fourth quarter in the series-ending Game 4 against the Raptors. Hood received “DNP [did not play] – coach’s decision” in four of the seven games against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, including the final two.
Going from a feared scorer to sitting on the bench is new territory for Hood.
“I was playing at such a high clip when I got traded,” Hood said. “And then, this is my first time having DNPs in life. The first time shooting two times or five times in a game. Having to adjust is the toughest part. It’s a part of my growth. I’m not going to always be in this state.
“It’s something I can look back on and think, ‘I’ve been through something worse than this. I’ve been through a tough time before.’ It can help me in future endeavors.”
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said confidence has been an issue for Hood.
“Coming from a situation in Utah he was accustomed to, and then coming to a situation after midseason to a team that had championship aspirations, he didn’t really get a chance to have a full year and a full training camp,” Lue said. “But he’s been great. He did great throughout the course of the regular season, and the playoffs have been just a little different for him.
“So we have confidence in him. He has to have more confidence in himself. And he’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to do. So he’s not ‘X’d’ out right now.”
Hood acknowledged it has been hard to adapt to the worldwide spotlight that comes with playing with James and the four-time reigning Eastern Conference champions. Hood also could have added stress from being a restricted free agent this offseason.
“This is something different. It has been tough,” Hood said. “The basketball stuff has been the easiest part. The stuff that comes out of it, you lose a game and everyone talks about it on TV the next day. They may say some things that you may not agree with. If you win a game, you’re supposed to. Those kind of things are something I kind of got on a much smaller scale and dealt with at Duke.
“You lose a game and you feel like the world is coming down. You win, it’s like, you’re supposed to win. It’s still a struggle to me to adapt to that.”
Hood did not play in Cleveland’s 124-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on May 31. Lue said he has been in regular conversation with Hood and that he could get some action in the Finals soon.
“Rodney has been working hard,” Lue said. “He had opportunities in the first round. He’s been working to play, and he’s going to get opportunities. Just because he didn’t play [Thursday] night or that much in the Boston series, I’ve always talked to him about being ready, staying ready, because he is a great talent and we’re going to need him. He’s going to get a chance and an opportunity.”
With Hood’s 26-point performance this season against Golden State in mind, Warriors forward Kevin Durant knows Hood has the potential to affect the series if he gets playing time. Hood last played on March 23 in three minutes of action in a Game 5 loss to the Celtics.
“Rodney Hood is a lefty who can score the basketball pretty well,” Durant said. “I know he hasn’t played for a while. But he is someone who is always sitting on the bench just waiting for his opportunities. If he gets his opportunity and gets his chance, he will take full advantage of it.”
Along with watching old YouTube clips, Hood has turned to his Cavaliers teammates and coaches and his NBA colleagues outside of the team for guidance, feedback and support. He has been talking to Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant and former Jazz teammate Joe Johnson. Hood said he has been getting positive feedback from his teammates. The Mississippi native has been working with Cavaliers assistant coach Phil Handy on ball-handling, shooting and conditioning. Handy said Hood’s confidence is “high.”
Hood said he has a feeling he will get his opportunity and that he will be ready and aggressive. He said all of the ups and downs will have been worth it if he can say he played in the Finals. Perhaps Game 2 on Sunday will be the night Hood makes his debut.
“One thing I have to do, and it took me and T-Lue to talk about, whether I get out there for five minutes, three minutes or 20 minutes, I have to be who I am,” Hood said. “I can’t ease my way into the game and let the game come to me. As soon as I check into the game, I have to go after it. That’s something he and I talked about going back to the Indiana series and really since I’ve been here. That’s something I’m looking forward to if my number gets called.”