SALT LAKE CITY — It had started to weigh on Rodney Hood earlier this season, when he was booed by Jazz fans. Lately he insisted he was optimistic and doing fine, despite rumors he would be traded. But a day before it happened, it was time to get real.
“My gut feeling is that I won’t be here by the deadline,” he told Yahoo! Sports. “I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I’ve felt isolated the past month and I would not be surprised if I was moved.”
Good call, Nostradamus.
The up-and-down ride with the talented but unreliable Hood is over in Utah.
In return, the Jazz get Jae Crowder from Cleveland. If that sounds familiar, it should. He was the Jazz’s best hope of salvaging something last summer from the Gordon Hayward departure. They had dreams of Hayward re-signing as a free agent until the final hour. Even early on the day Hayward left, team president Steve Starks was optimistically tweeting about his hopes the Jazz star hadn’t yet decided.
Crowder’s name came up in connection with Hayward’s move. The Jazz were hoping a sign-and-trade could be worked out, in which they got Crowder from Boston, sparing them the pain of going away empty-handed. No such luck. The Celtics weren’t about to give Crowder to the Jazz to be neighborly.
Although Crowder isn’t as gifted a scorer as Hood, he’s a rugged, multi-position player. He was sent to Cleveland in August in the trade that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston. Though Crowder played 25 minutes a game this year with the Cavs, his stats dropped, minutes included.
But it’s not as though Hood has a clean sheet. While Hood’s stats rose this season with the Jazz, so did expectations. In his next-to-last game in Utah he went 12-for-14 shooting from the field. But he also had 1-for-10, 4-for-13, 4-for-14, 6-for-19 and 0-for-11 nights this year.
With Hood, the Jazz were constantly rolling the dice.
Additionally, there were the injuries. When Hood wasn’t hurt, he was hurting. He missed 23 games with injuries last year, 32 as a rookie. But the biggest issue was that he was going to cost the Jazz a ton.
More than his game justifies.
In the move that also included Joe Johnson to Sacramento and Derrick Rose to Utah, in order to make the trade work, the Jazz eliminated some offseason stress. A restricted free agent, Hood could have commanded $15 million for the Jazz to re-sign him. With Crowder’s $7-8 million contract, the Jazz improved their flexibility. And they get a player who is more consistent and versatile.
Whether the loss of Hood — who scored 48 points in the last two games — will derail the team’s seven-game win streak is debatable. But when summer comes, the Jazz will be glad for the relief. With Derrick Favors poised to leave as a free agent, they will have cap space and flexibility. On Thursday they lost two good players, but neither a cornerstone.
Even with the departure of Hood, the Jazz didn’t make gigantic changes. They’re just rearranging their living room, not moving out major furniture. They moved a plant over by the window and hung up a new picture.
General manager Dennis Lindsey could be accused of making a move at the wrong time — right when the Jazz were the hottest they’ve been all season. Better now than next summer, when they could be paralyzed by Hood’s value. He recently sat out six games, nursing an injury. Now his health is Cleveland’s problem.
Crowder was born just a year before his father, Corey, signed on with the Jazz for a season. The elder Crowder can tell him about Crown Burger and Park City and the Alpine Loop in the fall. He can also tell him about the lack of Sunday games in Utah, and where to get a great deal on a car (hint: the initials are LHM).
The thing he won’t be able to say is that the Jazz never make a move — a label that hung with them for two decades. Outside of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the current Jazz are willing to listen to almost anything.