Raptors’ Rodney Hood looking for chance to get career back on track

Watch as Raptors' Nick Nurse jokes that it's too soon to see Norm Powell after the trade and has no special game plan for him in tomorrow's game against the Trail Blazers.

TORONTO – Rodney Hood is taking things one step at a time.

Coming over with Gary Trent Jr. in the trade that saw Norman Powell head to the Portland Trail Blazers, Hood is looking for an opportunity to get his career back on track.

The seven-year veteran is in the midst of a career-worst campaign. He’s averaging just 4.7 points per game and shooting 36.5 per cent from the field and 29.4 per cent from deep, a far cry from his career 11.7 points points per game on 42.3 per cent shooting from the floor and 36.8 per cent from three-point range.

He has good reason for this marked drop-off, however.

Hood’s 2019-20 season finished prematurely and scarily as he suffered a torn left Achilles tendon during the first quarter of a Blazers loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 6, 2019.

What transpired afterwards was a gruelling rehab following surgery that allowed him to return in time for this season’s opener with Portland on Dec. 23, 2020, but not with his game all the way back.

Over the course of the 38 games he managed to suit up for with Portland this season, Hood battled through minor injuries to his quad, thigh and ankle while also trying to get his feel back coming off the torn Achilles. It’s been a grind of a season so far for him and getting traded is just another obstacle he now has to try to overcome, but he’s optimistic about it all.

“Yeah, it’s been tough this year just trying to work my way back and get healthier. I didn’t have an off-season,” said Hood after the Raptors practiced late Saturday afternoon. “Obviously this is another stepping stone to get traded but I feel myself getting healthier, I feel like towards the end of the season I’ll be a little more back to myself but I’ve got to take time and that’s been the frustrating part about it, but I’m excited about where I’m headed.”

Hood, 28, is owed a little over $10 million this season, a figure that was instrumental in getting salaries to match to make the Powell deal work. He’s set to make about $10.8 million next season, but that contract isn’t guaranteed, meaning he’s a player who the Raptors are taking a peek at with virtually no risk.

The nature of the Achilles injury Hood was coming back from suggests he likely won’t be back to the player he once was until next season at the earliest, but there have been flashes of the old Hood seen this season.

For example, on Jan. 18 Hood scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting against the San Antonio Spurs and he had a two-game stretch between Feb. 2-4 where he scored 16 and 15 points each, helping the Blazers to wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards.

Those kind of performances are more indicative of the kind of player Hood actually is. Before he was forced to sit out the rest of the 2019-20 season, he was averaging 11 points per game while shooting a lights-out 50.6 per cent from the floor and 49.3 per cent from outside.

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The Raptors are hoping they’ll see more of the player Hood used to be to help them make a run into the play-in tournament or beyond with the 27 games they have remaining.

“I don’t know what he is going to bring to our team. I kind of know what his game is and what I hope he can bring. Maybe we can bring him along and stuff,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “I think he’s a pretty smart player. He’s got some size, he can make some buckets, both at the rim and at the three and in between a little bit, too. I think he has got some good athleticism and that looks good to me.

“I watched a ton of film of him after we got him and it was one of the things everyone kind of kept saying he hasn’t really been the same since the Achilles thing and I didn’t notice any of that. He goes up really high for rebounds, it looks like he’s moving side-to-side good, I think even the medical aspect of it checks out really strongly.

“So, listen, I think he gives us a wing with some experience. He gives us a versatile player. He can guard, 1, 2, 3, 4, maybe, because he has some size. He puts us in a chance to switch. I don’t know, I think he’s got some understanding of the game but I don’t want to say a whole lot because I’ve only seen him for all of one game and one practice. I do like his attitude and I do like what he has shown so far.

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This is actually the third time in Hood’s career he’s been traded, having originally been drafted by the Utah Jazz 23rd overall in 2014 and then getting dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers, then the Blazers and now the Raptors.

Despite how in-demand he’s been as a trade target over the years, he was a little surprised that he was moved Thursday.

“We were in Miami, I went through the walkthrough and everything, wasn’t really thinking about it, really, and then I was taking a pre-game nap and, for some reason, I woke up and I had like 12 missed calls and 20 messages — I was sleeping really heavy – [when] I found out,” said Hood. “I talked to the GM Neil [Oshey] and he explained why. We just expressed how much we appreciated each other while we were there in Portland and I appreciate them giving me an opportunity and then I got a chance to talk to everybody else. So it’s tough, I’ve been through it a couple times so it didn’t hit me as much but it’s part of the game and I’ve got much respect for those guys.”

But, hopefully for the Raptors, not too much respect as the two trade partners will see each other Sunday.

“It’s, I guess, kinda awkward, but I think it would be fun to see the guys again and I’m pretty sure they miss me more than I miss them,” Hood said jokingly of playing his former teammates so quickly. “But it’ll be cool.”

Sunday will just be another step along what has been a long journey back for Hood. It’s taking longer than he probably would like, but these are the cards that have been dealt to him and he’s going to try to make the most of them.

“I think you get to the physical part, which is part of the process, but there’s also the mental hurdle that you’ve gotta recover from and it sometimes limits you from going all out because, you know, it’s trauma when your body goes through certain things,” he said. “So I think I’m getting over that. As we go along I’ll be more and more active and athletic and getting more up on my shot and I think it’ll really do more dividends for my game.

“But it’s just a process that I’ve gotta continue to follow and just trust it.”

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