We’ve got a team that’s very versatile. A lot of guys can do a lot of things. —Rodney Hood
SALT LAKE CITY — Rodney Hood experienced a pain in the neck earlier this week that bothered him against Phoenix and then limited him in Los Angeles.
“I tried to start the game against the Lakers and it kept bothering me. I couldn’t really turn my neck,” Hood explained. “I went to the back (training room) and got treatment. I’m feeling good (now), ready to go.”
With that injury behind him, the shooting guard can now focus on what he hopes to become this season — a pain in the neck for opposing defenses.
Gordon Hayward’s exit — perhaps you’ve heard the All-Star small forward is in Boston now? — opens up an opportunity for the sharpshooting Hood.
“I’m just excited,” Hood said when asked about that. “We’ve got a team that’s very versatile. A lot of guys can do a lot of things.”
Many people pointed out that the Jazz got stronger defensively this offseason with the addition of the likes of Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh.
But Utah gave a glimmer of hope to its supporters that it might be a team with some offensive punch, too. The Jazz averaged 112.4 points in an undefeated preseason, and they didn’t score fewer than 105 points in five games.
Granted, the level of competition — two international teams and two subpar NBA squads — wasn’t top shelf, but it still highlighted the fact that this 2017-18 Jazz team has a variety of offensive options even if its No. 1 choice bolted for supposedly greener pastures.
“It won’t necessarily be easy,” Hood said of the Jazz being able to replace Hayward’s offense, “but it will be easier than people think because we’ve got guys who can pass the ball and play without the ball.”
The Jazz need to replace the 21.9 points a game their wayward leading scorer put up last season, and Hood is in a prime position to pick up some of that scoring slack.
The keys for the fourth-year player: remain healthy, become more consistent and, according to him, don’t put too much pressure on himself to be the No. 1 guy.
“It’s just about playing,” he said. “I’m going to try to be myself and just get better this year and make improvements.”
Hood’s production dipped in this third NBA season — from 14.5 points a game as a second-year player to 12.7 ppg last year. While his 3-point percentage improved (from 35.9 percent to 37.1 percent), his overall accuracy dipped from 42 percent to 40.8 percent.
A nagging knee injury didn’t help.
Hood said “he’d be lying” if he didn’t admit that he’s hoping to be one of the guys who fills the offensive void, but he’s not going to go out of his way to ensure that that happens.
“I won’t have to force it,” he said. “Just go out there and play my game and see what happens.”
Utah will also count on guys like Derrick Favors, Donovan Mitchell and Alec Burks, among others, to fill in the gaps.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said he tries to avoid putting expectations on players or positions when it comes to offensive production, but it would make sense to anticipate a bigger scoring responsibility will be placed on Hood’s shoulders this season.
“I think that’s a natural thing to expect him to attack,” Snyder said, “and put him in situations where he can do that.”
Hood said he’s not too concerned that he only played in four preseason games, logging just 63 total minutes. (His best two games were the first two when he averaged 18.5 points vs. the Sydney Kings and Phoenix Suns.) To that point, he’s glad the Jazz get a week of practice so he can continue to mesh with new teammates between the exhibition games and Wednesday’s season-opener at home vs. Denver.
“I’m ready,” he said, “to move on.”