With their sweep of the Toronto Raptors, the Cleveland Cavaliers were full of nothing but good vibes. That is, except from Rodney Hood, whose frustrations reached a boiling point in Game 4. While it was unprofessional of Hood, a few parties are to blame for this debacle.
After demoralizing the Toronto Raptors in a route in Game 4, the Cleveland Cavaliers are flying high. Many thought that the Cavs had a good chance to take out their Canadian rivals, but no one expected a sweep. Maybe it was God’s plan. Maybe LeBron James secretly is Thanos:
Either way, the Cavaliers have a lot to be proud of as they head to their fourth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals.
However, not everything was rainbows and sunshine in the game four win. When most fans were asleep, Jason Lloyd of The Athletic dropped this bombshell:
Wait, what? For those who are not subscribed to The Athletic, Lloyd reports that Hood refused to leave the bench during garbage time after losing his spot in the rotation to rookie Cedi Osman. Lloyd further reports that some of Hood’s teammates were angered by his decision, which drags the Cavaliers yet again into more drama.
Thankfully, things were squashed the following morning as Hood apologized to Cavs general manager Koby Altman. He also plans to apologize to teammates when they all return from either hitting the green or some much-deserved time off.
Nonetheless, this Hood debacle seemed like a long-time coming. Ever since he arrived in Cleveland, he has been a part of some kind of controversy. Remember when J.R. Smith threw a bowl of soup at assistant coach Damon Jones? Supposedly, it was because Hood had snatched Smith’s starting spot at the two guard spot.
Well, with the ire of the Pipe Master, a lot of pressure was put on Hood helping an anemic Cavaliers’ offense. He did alright in his last six games of the regular season with averages of 11.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
Things seemed steady with Hood in the starting unit but things took a turn for the worse in the NBA Playoffs. Really though, the Indiana Pacers shut down just about everyone not named LeBron James. Hood really felt the brunt of the Pacers’ defense where he only averaged 6.3 points, 1.0 assist and 1.0 rebound per game and played some mediocre defense. Meanwhile, Smith averaged 8.6 points, 1.0 assist and 3.1 rebounds against the Pacers while taking the defensive challenge of guarding Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and supplanted Hood in his old starting spot.
Things only got worse for Hood as he averaged 0.7 points, 1.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds against the Raptors. Smith, on the other hand, was great for the Cavaliers with averages of 12.5 points, 1.8 assists and 1.5 rebounds, including a stellar Game 4 performance:
With Hood;’s production falling off a cliff, it makes a lot of sense for head coach Ty Lue to kick the tires on Osman to try to get something. However, coach Lue should also get some of the heat for Hood’s disappearing act in the playoffs.
Coming from the Utah Jazz, Hood was used to being a heavily utilized player in a beautiful and refined offensive system. Hood thrived in Jazz head coach Quinn Snyder’s system and when he came to Cleveland, a lot of fans thought he was a future star (myself included).
However, Cleveland’s offense looks rudimentary compared to Utah’s, especially in the playoffs. Lue’s gameplan relies a lot on “bully ball” where both Kevin Love and LeBron James punish opposing defenses and allow their shooters to get easy looks when the before-mentioned duo command attention.
Since the Pacers were able to take Love out of the series, the rest of the offense suffered. Hood included.
Hood relies on getting into a rhythm and since only James could hurt the Pacers, he never found it in the first round.
He was then soon relegated to the bench mob and forced to play alongside Jordan Clarkson, a ball-dominant score first guard. As you might expect, Hood still failed to find a proper rhythm and eventually lost his confidence and his spot to Osman.
So while it was immature and unprofessional of Hood to leave the bench, it makes a little sense why.
His confidence is shattered at this point and a lot of that falls squarely on his head coach. The tandem of Clarkson and Hood has been a catastrophic failure but not everything is lost with Hood.
Heading into this summer, Hood is a restricted free agent. With his middling playoff performance, coupled with some nagging injuries, he may be easy for the Cavaliers to bring back. With a proper training camp, along with maybe running some sets with George Hill from their Jazz days, the Cavs will hopefully get this player:
Instead of the one that has vanished in the playoffs.
Everything is not lost for Hood as a Cavalier and thankfully, all parties appear to be moving forward.
The problems he is dealing with may not be properly fixed until next season but the taste of playing for a championship may help expedite the process.