The Portland Trail Blazers have been ravaged by injuries. But as a potential blessing in disguise, it could pave the way for a Rodney Hood resurgence.
In the wake of recent injuries to CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkić, optimism has been a difficult sell this week. An opportunity to evaluate which lineups coalesce best alongside Damian Lillard will be an interesting study, as will seeing how the Blazers’ younger talent responds to this new challenge. It’s a rare occasion in which nearly every player becomes must-watch.
The very idea that Hood was able to take the court after his Achilles tendon tear on Dec. 6, 2019 is a remarkable milestone in itself. As he worked himself back into last season’s form, a slow start was forgivable, if not expected. The talented lefty opened the season missing 29 of his first 36 attempts.
But, there’s something about how Hood responded to his first game without McCollum and Nurkic that makes hitting the panic button feel premature.
The first glance won’t back that up. The Spurs dealt Portland a 22-point home loss, and Hood was one of just three Blazers to have a double-digit scoring night. That being said, the brought spots were plentiful.
Hood’s game has a versatile change of pace that could give the Blazers at least a semblance of McCollum’s.
Portland can build upon his 21-point performance, be it the right-sided staggered screens with Enes Kanter that got him going left, and into his trusted dribble pull-up, his ability to bully smaller guards and hit his turnarounds, or even utilizing that quick trigger of his as a transition threat as a beneficiary of Damian Lillard’s gravity.
Basketball has a way of balancing itself out in terms of percentages, and for that reason, Hood feels due to return to 2018-19 form to some degree. It’s easy to forget: his 49.3 percent mark on catch-and-shoot attempts was tops in the NBA, and he had an eFG of 62.5. Hood opted into a $6 million player option, and if for no reason other than proving his value, him rebecoming something similar to his old self feels plausible.
Thinking bigger picture, Hood mentioned something that prevails over everything we’ve discussed: he said that coaches knew that at some point, getting Hood back to his old self was going to be important.
Hood is sacrificing over half of his minutes from last season (29.5 to 14.1), and given the depth ahead of him, it was always going to be tough for him to get the necessary minutes to do so.
He alluded to that in his postgame presser too. There’s a different sort of flow that comes with being a bench player, compounded on top of everything else he’s had to overcome this year.
Assuming the basketball gods are done dealing punches by the spring, it’s fun to imagine a Blazers team where Hood is in rhythm, Zach Collins, McCollum, and Nurkic are rested (and thus allows for Lillard to rest a bit more), and the Blazers are to go 11, 12-deep with capable players at every rotation.
All of that remains a work in progress. But in the midst of everything that has been negative for the Portland Trail Blazers already in 2020-21, the resurgence of Rodney Hood, among much else, has the chance to be a bright spot that keeps getting brighter.