Every day is getting easier for me. I know my spots where I’m going to get the ball, just playing off the guys right now. I’m finding my way. —Rodney Hood
SALT LAKE CITY — In many respects, Mississippi and Utah are nothing alike.
Early in his NBA career, Rodney Hood, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, is choosing to focus on the similarities.
“It’s a great place,” Hood said of his new hoops home. “It feels just like Mississippi in the sense that they are great people. People just love the Jazz, love the organization.”
It took a couple of practices, but the 6-foot-9 small forward, drafted 23rd overall by Utah last month, is beginning to feel more comfortable on the court, too.
“Every day is getting easier for me,” Hood said. “I know my spots where I’m going to get the ball, just playing off the guys right now. I’m finding my way.”
It took some counseling from a fellow Dukie to get him on the right track.
“He was a little tentative (Monday), which is natural,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the sharpshooter. “I kind of ribbed him a little bit in front of the group. We were putting in a few little plays. He responded. He came out and shot the ball. At this point, I’d rather have him miss a tough shot than pass something up.”
Hood led the ACC in 3-point shooting (42 percent) as a sophomore last season, so the Jazz are hoping his outside accuracy can provide a spark off the bench. But Snyder and his staff are also looking to help him improve his all-around game, and especially his defense.
“I think those things take time, just the physicality of the league for all young players,” Snyder said when asked about the 21-year-old. “I’m seeing effort and it’s important to him and it’s a good start. That’s a foundation you can work from.”
Hood said he was instructed to be more aggressive, and it helped when he followed that advice.
“He knows I can play. Everybody knows I can play,” Hood said. “(I need to) just go out there and be more aggressive.”
Hood said he’s also learning some tricks on the defensive side, including when to gamble on getting into passing lanes to attempt to make steals.
“They’ve actually been surprised by my defensive ability,” he said. “The thing with me is making it consistent.”
RECOVERED: Jazz center Rudy Gobert is feeling fine after undergoing an appendectomy while working out in Santa Barbara, California, a month ago.
Gobert rested for a week after having his appendix removed on June 9, but he’s resumed lifting weights and said he’s “100 percent.”
The 7-foot-2 Frenchman also feels better on the court this time around.
“I was under pressure (last year), but I was a rookie so that was a big part of it,” he said. “ It’s totally different (this summer). I feel way better — on my game, on my confidence. I feel better.”
OPEN PRACTICE: The Jazz will host fans for a free workout Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. practice, which includes a Q&A session with Snyder.
The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a free T-shirt decorated with images of rookies Dante Exum and Hood.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Hood said, “just to get to play in front of some people and get up and down.”