Cleveland • Rodney Hood’s most significant moment in these playoffs came while sitting on the bench.
Well, the former Jazz guard is getting up and getting in the NBA Finals.
Looking for an offensive weapon to negate Golden State’s size and ability to switch assignments on defense, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he’ll play Hood in Game 3 on Wednesday night in hopes of cutting into the Warriors’ series lead.
Hood, who began this postseason in Cleveland’s starting lineup, has been mostly a non-factor during the Cavs’ spring run which included him refusing to check into the final minutes of a blowout win over Toronto in the second round.
That’s not an option now.
“We’re going to give Rodney a chance,” Lue said following practice at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday. “He’ll get a shot and see how he does. He’s been working, staying ready. So we’ll see.”
Lue did not specify if Hood will start, when he’ll come in, how much he’ll play or whose minutes will be affected.
Hood promised to be ready for anything.
“I don’t know when it’s going to come or what stage of the game,” Hood said. “I’ve been preparing. I’ve been working hard, so if I get the opportunity, just go out there and play. Just have fun.”
Trailing 2-0, the Cavs are searching for some kind of spark and could find it if the 6-foot-8 Hood can tap into some of the offensive skills that made him attractive to Cleveland at the trading deadline.
He was acquired on Feb. 8 from Utah, and there were more than a few basketball experts who viewed the lean lefty as the best new piece on a day when the Cavs also dealt for guards George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and big man Larry Nance Jr.
Lue didn’t get nearly enough in Games 1 and 2 in Oakland from J.R. Smith (5 of 19) or Kyle Korver (4 points). Korver has been completely neutralized by the Warriors, who are not giving him any room to shoot.
“It’s hard because they switch out on everything,” Lue said. “So all the actions you run for Kyle, they just switch out to deny and take him away. When they are helping on LeBron’s penetration, the one guy they’re staying at home on is Kyle. They’re not leaving his body.”
Unlike the 37-year-old Korver, Hood is quick enough to beat the Warriors off the dribble, create open space to shoot and maybe get to the rim. Defensively, he’s got length and mobility.
He’s shown flashes. The Cavs now need him to shine steadily.
“He’s very talented,” said forward Kevin Love. “He’s a guy that can step in and fill up a scoreboard. Left-handed. A little bit unorthodox in the way that he plays. Just having that height on him and that wingspan, and the ability to not only make shots, but on the defensive end to switch out. Also play a guy like K.D. (Kevin Durant) at his size and just make it tough on both ends of the floor for their team. That gives all of us a lot of confidence that he can come in and make an impact.”
Hood’s short stay in Cleveland has been nondescript.
He averaged 16.8 points for the Jazz, but the 25-year-old never truly found his rhythm while coming off the bench for the Cavs over the regular season’s final 21 games. Still, he was in Lue’s starting lineup for the series opener against Indiana before Cleveland got beat soundly.
Hood saw spot duty the remainder of that series, and was essentially ineffective in three games against the Raptors before Lue tried to send him into the closing minutes of the clinching win on May 7 as the Cavs completed a sweep of the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded team.
When Hood declined, it upset a few teammates. Hood insisted he wasn’t protesting his reduced role and explained that there had been a mix-up. He apologized to the Cavs, many of whom laughed off the incident as minimal in a season overflowing with juicier drama.
While waiting for another chance, Hood has received positive support from Cleveland’s coaches and former teammates, including Joe Johnson who could relate to his plight after sitting in Houston.
Hood is confident he’s ready.
“Just going out there and try to help the team, on offense be aggressive and on defense just be physical,” he said.
Hood struggled during a playoff series with Utah against Golden State a year ago, making just 1 of 15 3-pointers and shooting 12 of 38 overall.
Those stats don’t matter now.
The only number that counts is his and will soon be called.