In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, Rodney Hood was pretty certain his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers were numbered.
It was clear the rebuilding Cavs wanted to ship away veterans for draft picks and young talent. Also, Hood could veto any trade since he signed for the qualifying offer last July, so he met with the front office to discuss possible suitors.
One team stood out: the Portland Trail Blazers. Hood thought he’d fit in well and, after losing so many games with the Cavs, he loved the thought of joining the West’s fourth-seed. Prior to the deadline, Cleveland dealt Hood to Portland for Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin and two second-round picks.
Through four games with Portland, the 26-year-old is averaging 9.8 points and 2.0 threes in 22.8 minutes on impressive 66.7/50.0/100 shooting splits. Portland also added Skal Labissiere and Enes Kanter over the last week as they bolster their roster for a playoff run.
HoopsHype caught up with Hood to discuss the trade, his fit with Portland, how last year’s deal prepared him for this move and more.
When the trade first happened, can you walk me through how you learned about the deal and how you initially reacted to the news?
Rodney Hood: I wasn’t surprised. In the two weeks leading up to [the deadline], I kind of had an idea that something was going to happen, but I just kept playing and being a professional while focusing on what we were doing in Cleveland. Then, I got wind that a bunch of teams were interested in trading for me and I had veto power, so while I won’t say that I could “pick” where I landed, I could kind of maneuver [my way] to a team I wanted to join.
When I heard Portland, I looked at the situation and the opportunity to play minutes in an offense and system that, I think, really fits my style of play. I also think with their community and their fan base, my personality will really fit in as well. I think it was a no-brainer to me to come out here and be part of what they have going on.
Did you veto any other possible deals or steer them away from any teams before the Portland trade came together?
RH: Well, I wanted to go to a playoff team and they agreed [that would be best]. That was the consensus [from both sides]. I really didn’t want to join a team that wasn’t really playing for anything. Anything other than joining a playoff team would’ve been a lateral move. I think that was the consensus and they agreed with that, and they made it work.
I know it’s only been a week, but what’s been your first impression of Portland – as a city and as an organization – so far?
RH: I mean, it’s been great. It’s been like a breath of fresh air, to be honest, just to be welcomed by all the fans and everyone in the organization. They’ve welcomed me and my family with open arms. There’s been a lot to pick up on as far as the Xs and Os part since it’s still early. But as far as personalities go, I fit in with the guys and I think they’re excited about having me on the team. I’m excited for [our games] after the All-Star break and into the postseason.
You were traded prior to last year’s deadline, so you’ve been through this before. Is going through the process easier this time around compared to your first time being traded?
RH: Yeah, it’s much easier. Last year when I got traded from Utah to Cleveland, I was [in the process of] trying to move into a house. Then, two months later, I had twins in the middle of the playoffs. Not to mention, we were staying in a hotel with our son, who was only 2 years old at the time. We were dealing with the “terrible twos” in a hotel room and barely sleeping. There was so much going on when I got traded that first time.
Now, this time, I’m going to be locked in out here. I’ll be away from my family, but they’re still going to visit regularly. I think this is a big opportunity for me. I think it’s a great fit both ways. I think there was a need for me on this team, and I think I needed to be part of something like this where I can show what I can do and be part of a big [playoff] run.
Not many guys get the chance to leave a 12-win team for a 34-win team that’s poised to make the playoffs. How exciting is it to go from a team that’s rebuilding to one that is focused on winning now?
RH: It’s very refreshing. That’s been my whole motto: “I want to get back to the playoffs.” I want to get back to playing on that big stage because there’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like being in the playoffs and playing at a high level while the whole world is watching. I really wanted to get back to that. Fortunately, I was able to come to Portland and be part of this. Cleveland was going through a rebuilding year and we dealt with a lot of injuries and turmoil within the organization. Now, being able to come here, it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to play competitive basketball.
Portland has a star-studded backcourt in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and now they add you to the mix. They also have reserves like Evan Turner and Seth Curry. How can you complement Lillard and McCollum, and how good could this backcourt be if everyone can get on the same page?
RH: Man, I think we can be very dynamic. Both of those guys, Damian and CJ, are already so great. If I’m on the court with them, being a guy who can spread the floor, then we can make sure opponents can’t take a night off when it comes to guarding anyone on the perimeter. If they try to switch off Dame or CJ and they try to guard me, I feel like I can take advantage of that.
And when I’m coming off the bench, playing with Dame and CJ, I think I can do well in a role that’s similar to the one I played in Utah where I was a focal point of the offense and able to take over for stretches of the game. I feel like this is a really great fit. It’s obviously still early. It’s been good so far, but we know it’s still early and that it can only get better from here [as everyone jells].
How long does it typically take for everyone to get acclimated and on the same page after a midseason trade? I know it varies a bit depending on the situation, but how long does it take based on your experiences?
RH: It takes a while. I’d say it takes at least a month. You have to go through some things together in order to build that chemistry. Things aren’t always going to be hunky-dory and everyone isn’t going to play great every game. You have to go through some of those times together, go through some battles together, because that’s how you build chemistry. That’s also when you learn a lot about each other. I think that’s something we’ll have to go through.
After the All-Star break, we’ll be out on the East coast for, like, two weeks and we’ll learn a lot about each other during that road trip. At the end of the day, it’s still just basketball. But as far as personality wise [and meshing as a team], I’d say it takes about a month.
What’s been the reception from your new teammates and coaches since you arrived in Portland? And have they defined what they want to see from you and how you’ll be used?
RH: It’s been great. They’ve all been really welcoming and they just want me to be me. They want me to be a guy who can shoot the ball, score the ball, come off staggers, come off pin-downs and post up; they’ve been running a lot of post-ups for me. They also want me to defend multiple positions and be that two-way type of player. It’s something I’ve been doing, and I’m really looking forward to doing it on this team. We have a lot of good guys on this team and I’m just happy to add to it.
You’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July and it’s clear you like what the Blazers are doing since you picked them over other interested teams. Can you see yourself in Portland long-term?
RH: Yeah, I hope so. I want to be somewhere I’m embraced and I feel like this could be one of those spots. You never know what the future holds, but I’m liking it so far. We’ll see where the future takes us.