Rodney Hood said he had to be a professional.
Utah’s shooting guard isn’t exactly happy to be coming off the bench as a sixth man in favor of Donovan Mitchell. But he isn’t exactly surprised, either. But rather than pout, or let a changed role affect his play, Hood decided to embrace a challenge.
“The main thing is to not take a step back,” Hood said. “I know that I can play with the best of them. So regardless of when I get in, I have to put in work. So that’s how I’m approaching it.”
Through two games, Hood as a sixth man is producing the desired results. In Utah’s 114-106 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night, Hood came off the bench and scored 19 points.
It’s his second consecutive 19-point performance as a member of the second unit. But unlike Friday night, when Hood shot 5 of 19 from the field, he was more efficient, and just plain better.
Hood went 7 of 16 from the field. More importantly, he went 5 of 8 from 3-point range. He hit a 3 at the first- quarter buzzer to tie the game at 25-25. He carried the Jazz offense through multiple rough patches with his shooting. He gave the bench unit offensive life and combined with Mitchell to give Utah dynamic perimeter production.
“The shot at the end of the first quarter was big for me in getting my confidence,” Hood said. “I just have to keep being aggressive when I get in. Shots will fall, and tonight they did. We just have to keep grinding, keep getting better and keep going from there.”
Hood knows the key to his new role is staying aggressive, as does Jazz coach Quin Snyder. Another key, so far, has been minute distribution. Hood played 30 minutes on Saturday night. He’s also been in Utah’s closing lineup on Friday and Saturday.
On both nights, when Hood has gotten into the game, Snyder’s immediately run plays for him, force-feeding him, hoping he can find a comfort level right away.
Against Miami on Friday night, Hood didn’t shoot the ball well, but he drove the lane and found his way to the free-throw line, where he generated points. Against the Nets, Hood was making shots. He scored 14 of his 19 points in the decisive first half. His shooting allowed the Jazz to space the floor, which allowed Derrick Favors to thrive in the pick-and-roll portion of the offense.
“Rodney’s playing well, and it’s good to see that he’s being aggressive,” Favors said. “We need that from him every night, the offense needs that from him.”