Las Vegas • If you root for the Utah Jazz, chances are you’ve watched or read about Rodney Hood’s recent summer league performances.
What many don’t know is the work Hood has been putting into his shot during off days. After Utah practiced at Cox Pavilion, the 6-foot-8 rookie small forward worked overtime Sunday with assistant coach Johnnie Bryant, hoisting jumper after jumper while many of his teammates dressed and headed for the team bus. By the time Hood was finished, his face and arms were drenched with sweat. It was almost two workouts for the price of one.
As a result, the shot that he struggled with Saturday night against Philadelphia dropped with stunning efficiency against the Bucks on Monday night. Instead of throwing up brick after brick, he wowed the Jazz faithful at the Thomas & Mack Center by making 7 of 10 from beyond the arc against Milwaukee for 29 points.
Monday’s game from Hood was simply one of the best summer league performances from any first-year player around the league.
“I’m a confident guy,” Hood said. “I was getting good looks against Philly, they just weren’t going in, so I just wanted to stay confident and keep shooting the basketball. I was a little antsy in the first game. All of the shots felt good, but I wasn’t following through. All of my shots felt good in the second game.”
The 48 hours between games one and two were about getting back to the basics. Hood got on the phone with his father Ricky, whose message to his son was simple: Trust your shot. Stay confident. Refine your mechanics, and the results will come.
Obviously, it worked. But Hood has impressed in more ways than just scoring. In two games, he’s displayed an all-around skill that suggests he has the potential to be a contributor for the Jazz in his rookie season. He grabbed eight rebounds against the 76ers. He had five assists and four rebounds on Monday night. Most importantly, he’s made an impact on the other side of the court.
“I’m most happy that Rodney’s defended well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I thought he did a very good job on defense, sticking to his man. I want him to shoot when he’s open. The best thing about him is that he hasn’t hunted his shot.”
If summer league is an indication, Hood is showing the makings of a guy who can score from everywhere. Everyone notices the bombs from 3-point range. But he made two shots from 15 feet against the Bucks. He put the ball on the floor and got to the basket, and he scored off catch-and-shoot situations.
Much was made about his matchup on Monday against fellow Duke forward Jabari Parker, the No. 2 pick of the draft. Hood downplayed that, said it had no impact on how he played. He acknowledges, however, that slipping to the 23rd pick still eats at him, and that he plays with a bit of a chip.
“It’s something that I think about all the time,” Hood said.
The Jazz may or may not sign a veteran wing to replace the departed Richard Jefferson. As it stands now, Hood could be in line for minutes behind Gordon Hayward at small forward or Alec Burks at shooting guard.
It’s evident, though, that Hood provides a value with his shooting. Along with Steve Novak, he’s someone who has the ability to space the floor and provide room for Hayward, Burks and Trey Burke to drive the lane.
Utah’s front office knew this when it drafted Hood, and didn’t need seven 3-pointers in a game to reinforce that belief. But if anything, the Jazz were happy that Hood has provided tangible proof of his talent for shooting the ball.
• Averaging 19 points in two summer league games and leads the Jazz in scoring.
• Scored 29 points on Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks.