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In Focus: Rodney Hood

Can the former and maybe-future Cavalier learn to thrive in a supporting role?

Rodney Hood standing in a Cavaliers uniform with his hands on his hips Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The 2018-19 NBA season is closer than you may think. To prepare, we’re taking a hard look at some of the more interesting players and situations across the league.

You can pinpoint the moment Cleveland gained an advantage over Rodney Hood in contract negotiations: The Raptors were less than a quarter away from mercy in Game 4 of the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals, down 30 with 7:38 remaining, when Tyronn Lue called on Hood to enter the game. Hood—who had played a total of 39 minutes in the series thus far, had scored just two points, and had not left the bench that night—refused.

Even before that incident, which Hood later apologized for, his reputation wasn’t sterling. In January, still with the Jazz, he slapped a phone out of a fan’s hand after getting tossed against the Wizards (despite saying the slap “wasn’t intentional,” he was fined $35,000). With the Jazz, he spoke publicly about feeling “isolated” and said he expected to be traded before the season ended. Rookie Donovan Mitchell’s emergence had cut into Hood’s minutes, but the comments are also representative of a common theme: Hood believes he deserves more than what he gets.

Months later, that’s still true of Hood, the best remaining free agent on the market. Cleveland has extended him a one-year, $3.4 million qualifying offer, and no other franchise has given Hood an offer sheet, which the Cavs would have the right to match. But without another suitor, there’s little incentive for the front office to pay Hood any more than what they’re currently offering. (I’ll—gulp—side with owner Dan Gilbert that there’s no reason to pay the luxury tax again for a team without LeBron James.)

Two weeks ago, a league scout told Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz that Cleveland could keep Hood for “song and dance” at this point in the offseason. “I don’t think anyone else wants him. [...] I’m not sure how tough he is.” Toughness is a concern, but probably a smaller one than worries about his willingness to take a diminished role or ability to perform in limited capacity. Hood’s stature even as a sharpshooter from the wing is in jeopardy; he was 4-for-24 from 3 in the playoffs last season. You can’t be above garbage time if you play like garbage.

Hood responded to the “song and dance” comment in an Instagram comments section. “Don’t believe this at all,” he wrote to one commenter. “I’m blessed and highly favored,” he wrote to another. “What reason would I have to be salty?”

If Hood returns to Cleveland, both he and the Cavs will benefit. The team has a King-sized scoring gap to fill, and could use help on the wing. Before the trade, Hood was shooting 38.9 percent from the perimeter, but staying with the Cavs would provide a good opportunity to showcase some consistency from outside. If Hood accepts the qualifying offer, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer after a season of heightened exposure. If pride is what’s standing in the way of Hood re-signing, he may never get off the proverbial bench. Refusing to enter Game 4 has haunted him this summer, likely contributing to his lack of suitors. Being selective is an option only after you prove yourself.