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Kragthorpe: Jazz guard Rodney Hood's shooting solution: 'Lock myself in the gym'

Published May 10, 2017 11:06 pm

Utah Jazz • A bad knee and Warriors' length had something to do with his shooting woes, but he knows he's got to be better
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The Jazz's most memorable shot of their playoff series vs. Golden State came in Game 3 when guard Rodney Hood took a pass from Gordon Hayward and hit from the left corner.

That play became significant for two reasons: Hood's shot gave the Jazz their first lead over the Warriors after nearly five halves of basketball, and it remained his only successful 3-point attempt of the series. He went 1 of 15 from that range in four games of the Western Conference semifinals, while making 12 of 38 shots overall in the series that concluded his third NBA season.

The criticism of Hood's postseason performance is somewhat diluted by a few factors. He was playing with a sore knee that caused him to miss 18 games during the regular season, including the second-to-last contest. He shot inconsistently in the first-round series vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, but came through with big 3-pointers in victories in Games 4 and 5 and made a nice contribution in Game 7.

And there's this bit of historical consolation: Gordon Hayward shot even worse in his first playoff appearance as a second-year player, and he was brilliant in his next opportunity. Hayward's Jazz teams missed the playoffs four years in a row, before he got another chance this spring. Hood figures to return right away.

"We'll be back," Hood said Tuesday, during the Jazz's exit interviews, "and I'll have another swing at it."

Amid everything else swirling around the Jazz in the offseason, with the impending free agency of Hayward, George Hill and other players, I was curious how Hood would process his shooting struggles. Much like Hayward, who made 6 of 33 attempts vs. San Antonio in 2012, Hood seemingly landed on the right mixture of being motivated to improve, while not beating himself up for missing shots. Hood also is allowing himself to rationalize that the sore knee affected his shooting. That's probably healthy, psychologically.

He's promising to "lock myself in the gym" this summer and do "whatever it takes to become the player I need to become." That will happen only after he rests his knee for about a month.

"He's in a position where he's got to take some time off to heal," said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. "It tells you a little bit about where he was coming from during that series. But I'm not concerned about his confidence."

Veteran forward Joe Johnson produced the same overall shooting numbers as Hood in the Golden State series, after being unstoppable at times against the Clippers. So the Warriors' defense clearly had something to do with the Jazz's offensive issues. Johnson's case was interesting. He especially struggled with 2-point shots, going 6 of 20, as the Warriors' switching tactics denied him the good looks he got against the Clippers.

Hood, in contrast, had some success with drives and mid-range shots. That's how he scored 10 points in the third quarter of Game 1, as the Jazz made a mild run. But when it came to spot-up 3-pointers, he was way off. Blame the knee. Or credit the Warriors.

"It's no secret Rodney has battled through some injuries this year and that lack of continuity, especially for a shooter, can have an impact," Snyder said. "Golden State's length has an impact. Kevin Durant closing out on you, Andre Iguodala … Those are just harder shots."

And Hood missed a bunch of them. In the middle of Monday's fourth quarter, he was knocked down while shooting. He missed two free throws, then committed a foul to stop play and allow himself to limp off the court and go straight to the locker room.

The latest injury turned out to be insignificant, but it was enough to end his season a little early. Those 1-of-15 and 12-of-38 numbers will hover above him until the Jazz resume playing in October — and they'll be remembered again in April, when the team presumably will get another playoff shot.

Hood said adjusting to coming off the bench in the playoffs affected him, and he expects to return to his former role next season, saying, "I'm a starter."

A better finish also fits into his plans.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com Twitter: @tribkurt






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