When it comes to Cavs, laid-back Hood feeling good

Publish date:

Rodney Hood is new to the Cleveland Cavaliers and this is all new to him.

"I'm trying to learn a lot on the fly," he said. "I still gotta find myself and how I fit around the guys. I'm still trying to figure that out. I got a little ways to go. But energy and playing hard, I can bring that."

Hood is a 6-foot-8 shooting guard. He has good size and a nice stroke. He is silky smooth on the perimeter and athletic enough to score in the paint. He arrived in Cleveland via Utah at the Feb. 8 trade deadline. Hood is one of four newcomers, joining forward Larry Nance Jr., shooting guard Jordan Clarkson and point guard George Hill.

Since Hood and the others have put on a uniform, the Cavs are 3-2. At times, they've looked like true championship contenders. At others, they look, well, sort of confused. Basically, they look like new guys who are still finding their way next to superstar LeBron James.

And guess what? That's what they are.

James repeatedly said all the newness would come with a learning curve. He was right.

"It’s not a surprise, not to me," James said. "I’ve been through this. There’s going to be a transition period."

This new brand of Cavs (35-24) can play great and look like they've been teammates for 10 years. But in the two losses -- to the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards -- they looked like a ball of nerves auditioning for a leading role in a new theater production. They lost their way in the offense and couldn't shoot straight.

Not to worry, said Hood.

"I think we'll be fine," he said. "We had a couple games where we didn't shoot it well. We can get hot. As long as we're getting the right looks, it'll turn out OK."

Hood, 25, is a native of Mississippi. He speaks with a slow, respectful tone. He is an intelligent man who played his first season of college ball at Mississippi State, then transferred to Duke.

He was selected by Utah with the 23rd overall draft pick in 2014. He was quite a find at the deadline -- averaging a career-high 16.8 points in 39 games with the Jazz. He started just 12 of those games, and Hood has never had any qualms about coming off the bench. Like all the newcomers, he is not someone who rocks the boat.

Not only is getting used to a new city, new teammates and new expectations, he is learning about and seemingly loving playing next to an unselfish star in James.

But that, too, can be a transition.

"We've gotta be confident enough to make plays when he's on the court," Hood said of Life with LeBron. "That's the biggest thing."

Another big thing? The Cavs, as a franchise, have big hopes. Their goal is a fourth straight trip to The Finals, followed by another title.

Hood is averaging just 10.6 points with the Cavs -- six down from his average with the Jazz. Both Hood and Cavs coach Tyronn Lue expect those numbers to improve as Hood gets more comfortable. The sample size is, after all, very small.

Besides, Hood knows that in Cleveland, it's not about who scores what. It's the score on the Jumbotron above the court that matters. He appears to enjoy that about his new situation.

"I'm playing to try to win a championship," he said. "I proved what I can become, and I'm gonna get better here. But right now, it's all about winning."