This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Towel over his head, his feet submerged into an ice bucket, Rodney Hood stared into space on Wednesday night. For Utah's starting shooting guard, that moment inside Minnesota's cramped locker room represented a low point.
He had just gone 1 for 13 against the Timberwolves and scored six points in a bad loss for the Jazz. He played tentative basketball. He didn't shoot it with confidence, and even worse, he didn't create for himself or his teammates like he had been for most of this season.
Fast-forward to Saturday night. Hood's mood following a 92-87 win over the Memphis Grizzlies proved completely different, and for good reason. He had just torched one of the best defensive teams in the league for a career-high 32 points. That jumper wayward for much of the year was back, as he hit five 3-pointers. Whoever Memphis assigned to defend him got the business end of Hood's offense.
That game, combined with the birth of his son Rodney Hood Jr. on Sunday morning, is no doubt a crescendo to this point. The key going forward for Hood is consistency. The Jazz know what kind of player he can be. Now they hope he can be that player repeatedly.
"I think I have to play with a real confidence in myself," Hood said. "For us as a team to come in with all of the injuries we've had and beat a team as good as Memphis, I think it says a lot about us and who we are. We just have to keep going, and I just have to keep being aggressive offensively."
When the Jazz face the Houston Rockets on Monday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena, anyone associated with the organization hopes Hood has hit a breakthrough.
The Hood everyone saw against the Grizzlies is the reason General Manager Dennis Lindsey stayed out of the free-agent market, when conventional wisdom suggested the Jazz needed help on the wings.
That Hood is the reason coach Quin Snyder didn't hesitate to put him in the starting lineup late in the preseason, even with a healthy Alec Burks ready and willing to contribute.
Yet, Hood has had his struggles that have been well-documented. He's currently shooting 40 percent overall from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range. He's struggled at times defensively, and he's been inconsistent overall.
All of which makes his last two games a welcome sight. Hood scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out six assists in Thursday's win over the Portland Trail Blazers. His 32 points against Memphis were fleshed out by a career-high eight rebounds. And perhaps most encouraging: Hood's gone 9 of 17 from three in those two wins.
His shooting stroke may be back.
"He's doing the same things he did three games ago when he was like 1-for-11," Snyder said. "He's just playing his game. It's important for everyone to remember, and especially him, that you can't overthink what you're doing. Just stay aggressive. If you're a good player, and he is, and a good shooter, things will regress to the mean. In this case, that's what's happened. He's had some tough games and he's had some great games. I think his preparation and his approach has been virtually the same."
Hood's in his second season out of Duke and like any young player he's had some bumps in the NBA road. But the Jazz need him, and there's no doubting that. With Burks gone until at least February with a broken leg, Hood is the one guy with the scoring ability and playmaking ballhandling on the perimeter who can consistently take pressure off Gordon Hayward's heavy load.
The Memphis game is a prime example of this. On Saturday night, the Grizzlies clearly enacted an "anyone but Hayward" defensive strategy. They put Tony Allen on him one of the very best defenders in the league. They trapped Hayward at any opportunity, and they made it difficult for him to even catch the ball. As a result, Hayward scored 14 points, and went 5 for 10 from the field. That's how much attention Memphis paid him. He could muster only 10 looks at the basket.
In those situations, the Jazz need Hood to take advantage and make teams pay. Against Minnesota, he didn't do that. Against Memphis, he did. Coming into this season, the Jazz wings had potential to be the offensive strength of the team. Even with one of them injured for an extended period, Hood has proved this to be true, if only for two games.
And all of Utah hopes the upward trend continues.
Rockets at Jazz
P Monday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT
P Welcomed a new baby boy, Rodney Hood Jr., on Sunday morning, one night after scoring a career-high 32 points in an overtime win at Memphis.
• Hood averages 12 points a night, and is shooting 89.5 percent from the free-throw line. He is in his second season out of Duke.
• Hood was drafted last year in the first round by the Jazz. He became a starter late in the season, winning the NBA's Rookie of the Month for April.