TORONTO — Trey Lyles and Raul Neto might not hear the end of it from Rodney Hood.
Not only did Hood’s Team USA edge out Team World in a 157-154 highlight-fest, but Lyles and Neto also each ended up on the wrong side of individual matchups with their American teammate Friday night during the Rising Stars Challenge at Air Canada Centre.
Hood also outscored, outrebounded and outdunked his Jazz buddies. The second-year Jazz guard finished with 11 points, including four dunks, three rebounds and three assists to boot.
Listen to him, and Hood might tell you he outdefended Lyles and Neto, too.
Though defense in this rookie-sophomore showcase was as rare as a tropical beach in Canada, he might have a case.
Exhibit A: In the time leading up to this particular All-Star Weekend event, Hood joked with Lyles and Neto about how he was going to beat them in a one-on-one situation — and vice versa.
Lyles actually got that chance in the first half, making a nice move to get some space in between himself and Hood to set up a good look on a turnaround shot.
“Yeah, when I got it, he was like, ‘Oh yeah, oh yeah,’” Lyles said. “I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got a little something for ya.’ I hit him with a jab. He wasn’t ready for it.”
Only problem: The jumper bounced off the rim (as most did during a 1-for-6 shooting performance, which he shrugged off).
“He went for one of my little fakes,” Lyles said. “I was missing shots, so he got lucky on that one.”
Hood smiled when asked if it was his defense that messed up Lyles on that play.
“Of course, of course,” he said. “It was just all out of fun.”
Hood admitted he was actually relieved Lyles missed.
“I was just praying it didn’t go in because I would’ve heard about it for the rest of the year,” Hood said, laughing. “That’s his shot. He doesn't shoot it much, but he hits that turnaround all the time, so I was just hoping it didn’t go in.”
Exhibit B: This time Hood got the ball in the open court and was driving to the basket with Neto threatening to foil his fast break from the left. However, the Jazz point guard backed off at the last moment, giving Hood an unchallenged dunk.
“I don’t want to look like the crazy guy, the only guy who’s going to play defense,” Neto joked. “So I’ve got to back up. It’s hard. I want to win the game. It’s tough when somebody scores on you and you can’t do anything.” Neto did make Hood think about the shot, though.
“I was trying to just fake a little bit,” he said. “I know he was going to be mad.”
Hood smiled about that.
“I just knew he was going to foul me, but he let me go,” Hood said. “I would’ve done the same thing as well.”
Hood is mostly known for his outside game, which has helped him become an offensive force for the Jazz, but he had a personal dunk-a-thon for a while, slamming in his first four shots. All were basic, two-handed slams off of both feet.
“I told Zach (LaVine) that he’s lucky I’m not in the dunk contest,” Hood said.
Neto became his team’s favorite player when he entered in the first half and dished out assists the first three times he touched the ball. The Brazilian rookie finished with nine assists.
“That game is not hard to get assists. Nobody played defense,” said Neto, who added a nifty reverse layup for his only points. “I knew it was going to be like that. I just came out there thinking to enjoy and have fun.”
Same for Lyles and Hood, who’ve had a blast this weekend.
“You watch all the All-Star Weekend stuff and now you’re here and you’re a part of it,” said Lyles, who ended with two points and two rebounds. “It’s a dream come true for me.”
Like Lyles, Hood said he hopes to make it back to All-Star Weekend.
“It’s fun, more than what I expected,” Hood said. “The excitement around the game. The fans out there are amazing. The guys you don’t really get to see them as much. Getting up and close and personal with those guys, you’ve got a lot more respect for them because you know them as people now.”
Not to mention those Jazz bragging rights he earned.
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