It’s easy to forget at times given the speed with which an encouraging season has flown by, but Rodney Hood is still just learning the game at this level. Not only is he a rookie, he’s less experienced at this point than nearly all his first-year peers due to injury, something not lost on coach Quin Snyder.
“Rodney, you can forget, I don’t know how many minutes he’s played, but this is like late November for him really in a lot of ways,” Snyder said postgame when I asked him about Hood’s progression.
And through this lens, add him to the growing list of young Jazz players exhibiting positive signs as the year wears on. Minus the team’s offensive leader in Gordon Hayward and with another of their wings in Elijah Millsap battling foul trouble most of the game, Hood stepped up in a big way, posting a high in points on his young career with 17 including 13 in a vital third quarter that kept the game from slipping away before his teammates finished off the Knicks in the fourth. Rodney noted this as another step in his progression after the game, telling me he tried to stay in character even while often filling Hayward’s ball-dominant role in the second half.
“At the end of the game, Coach (Snyder) put the ball in my hands, and that was a first,” he told me. “So I just had to try to make the right play.”
It wasn’t easy for him to step out of his comfort zone, however. Cameras captured Snyder sternly chastising his young swingman at an earlier point in the game, appearing1 to stress that Hood needed to pursue his own shot when it was there rather than deferring and bogging down the offense. Quin smirked when I commented on this after, but confirmed as much with his statements.
“I think he’s very confident, but there’s times he’s trying to make the right play, he’s trying to be a good teammate,” Snyder said. “And for Rodney tonight, being a good teammate was being really aggressive offensively, so that’s basically what I told him.”
It’ll take some getting used to, to be sure. Hood shot just 6-16 on the night and may have been pressing at a point or two, but this comes with the territory for such an inexperienced player taking on a big role against NBA-level competition.
“It’s something that I work on,” he said. “It was my first time being in that position, so I’ve just gotta get better at it.”
|Derrick Favors, PF 35 MIN | 11-17 FG | 7-9 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 29 PTS | +4 +/-With co-star Gordon Hayward out for the first time all year, Favors was huge from the get-go, coming just short of his career-high point total. He dominated down low against any defender and punished New York all night for not doubling him. Utah’s best player by a mile in this one.|
|Rudy Gobert, C 38 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-5 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +2 +/-Rudy gets a slight drop for another curious instance where a lesser name (Cole Aldrich) had success against him one-on-one, but he was his usual monstrous self generally. Four blocks and three steals go a long way, and he put up yet another double-double.|
|Trey Burke, PG 28 MIN | 1-11 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -4 +/-Burke had a very rough night with perhaps a little added defensive focus in his direction minus Hayward. He couldn’t get going at any point and ceded ball-handling duties to Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles down the stretch even while he was on the floor with them. An off night for a guy who’s been playing quite well of late.|
|Elijah Millsap, SG 14 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | -7 +/-As he’ll do occasionally, Millsap got himself in trouble early on with fouls and was only able to log 14 minutes. His defense remained in its usual strong form during these periods, but he wasn’t able to contribute much else.|
|Dante Exum, SG 37 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +6 +/-On a night of career-high’s or near misses, Dante’s 37 minutes joins the list as he eclipsed 35 for the first time in the NBA. He played more of his usual excellent defense, including a spectacular block seemingly from out of nowhere, and continues to take the tiniest of baby steps toward what we all know he can be on the other end.|
|Trevor Booker, PF 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1 +/-Booker didn’t have the sort of high-energy impact he typically does, but the Jazz outscored the Knicks in his time on the court and he provided solid backup minutes for Favors and Gobert.|
|Joe Ingles, SF 36 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +14 +/-Ingles readily admitted after the game that he hasn’t had his greatest stretch of games recently, but he stepped up tonight. He made several timely second-half shots, and the Jazz’s per-possession rating was a team-high plus-25.6 per-100 while he was on the floor.|
|Rodney Hood, SG 25 MIN | 6-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +2 +/-He could have been more efficient, sure, but a performance like this with such aggression and confidence is a major plus for a guy so young in his NBA career. He continues to push for starter minutes for the remainder of the year.|
The slightest detraction just because his team had a few too many issues with a woeful and tired Knicks squad who lost the previous night. But Quin was his usual demonstrative self on the sidelines and made a point of emphasizing process over results postgame, once again displaying precisely the approach that has been so successful all year long.