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Rodney Hood simply wants to play basketball.
The Jazz's starting shooting guard knows his knee won't be fully healthy for the remainder of the season. He knows with each cut to the basket, each change of direction, each jumper he takes, the pain will be there.
But itt no longer matters.
After missing consecutive games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls two weeks ago, Hood went to coach Quin Snyder and said he no longer wished to miss time because of a bone contusion. He knows his individual game won't be perfect. But he also knows, with postseason looming, that being on the floor matters.
"At this point, I'm just trying my best to play through it," Hood said. "I have to be honest with the training staff, and not try to be a tough guy. But at the same time, I just have to try to play through the pain, and just do what I can out there. Obviously, I'm not going to be at my best every night, and it's not always going to feel great. But just having my body out there, it's good for the team."
As the Jazz prepare for Tuesday's meeting with the Portland Trail Blazers at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Hood's level of production mirrors the level of pain his knee is in from game to game.
On some nights, the knee feels relatively good. On those nights, Hood can be himself. He can get to the basket off the dribble. He can handle a bigger load offensively. The elevation on his jumper is noticeable, and he can play a larger amount of minutes.
In other games, Hood said, a searing pain shoots through his knee on many of his movements. In those games, his minutes are limited, and he is reduced to more of a standstill shooter.
The Jazz's box scores are indicative of how Hood is feeling. Last Monday, he scored 20 points in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans, grabbing six rebounds and handing out three assists. Two nights later, he scored 18 in a win over the Sacramento Kings. But Hood made less of an impact on Friday against the Washington Wizards, scoring 11 points. He was hardly noticeable in Sunday's loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
"Rodney is learning to play through discomfort, and that's a process," Snyder said. "For a while there, it was two weeks on and two weeks off for him. But I think he's at a point now where it's go time and he's just made up his mind that he's going to play through the discomfort. He's showing some mental toughness and a willingness to compete in every facet of the game. His offense stands out because of what he does for us, he's a shot-maker. But defensively, he's been huge for us."
Hood being in the fold has given Snyder an opportunity to solidify his rotation a bit. And in doing so, he has made a big decision: He has left guard Alec Burks out of the immediate rotation. As a result, Burks has received two consecutive coaching decision DNP's (did not play), as Snyder has given the bulk of those minutes on the wings to Hood, Joe Ingles and Gordon Hayward.
There will still be games where Burks plays off the bench when one of the first three wings gets into foul trouble. The Jazz face a three-game-in-four-night stretch at the end of the week, which means Burks will probably see some time there. But for a guy who has been a big part of Snyder's second unit since returning from injury in January, Snyder's decision to create separation there looks like a big one.
"It's tough because we all want to be out there as much as we can," Ingles said. "At the end of the day, I'm happy to be out there helping the team as much as I can, but I feel for the guys who aren't playing. We're all trying to win and we're all here for the same reason. But, obviously, everyone wants to be out there, trying to help the team win."
Being out there is the reason for Hood playing through pain. His preparation before games and recovery after games includes significant amounts of ice. When he's home, he tries not to move around too much. The ice packs stay at his side.
Hood said he hopes the playoff schedule helps. The first round of the postseason is notorious for its time between games; in that sense, the downtime could help Hood and the Jazz, who have played just 13 games this season with their preferred starting lineup.
"We're trying different things," Hood said. "The key is to try and continue to keep the knee fresh, stay on top of it, do everything we can to keep pain off that spot and keep it from flaring up."
Rodney Hood update
• Missed most of February when he hyperextended his knee in a win over the Orlando Magic. Hood returned from the initial injury, but re-injured the knee in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
• Hood is averaging 13 points per game this season. He scored in double-digits three times last week, the first time he's done so in March.
• Hood missed consecutive games last month gainst Cleveland and Chicago with the knee pain. He hasn't missed a game since.