Both Joe and Rodney have special places in our hearts. —Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, on Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson
SALT LAKE CITY — After Utah’s 92-88 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday, players huddled around the flat screen television in the visitors locker room of the FedExForum to witness LeBron James’ game-winning shot to beat Minnesota.
Less than 24 hours later, the Jazz would announce that Rodney Hood was part of a three-team trade to join forces with James as the newest Cleveland Cavalier.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said the decision wasn’t easy, as the team acquired Cleveland’s Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose in the process, while sending Joe Johnson to Sacramento, where he’s likely to be released.
Both players met with Lindsey Thursday upon learning the news, and Johnson took the majority of the team out Thursday night in Salt Lake City before his departure.
“Both Joe and Rodney have special places in our hearts,” Lindsey said.
Hood was averaging a career-best 16.8 points while shooting 38.9 percent from three in his fourth season out of Duke. Utah selected him 23rd overall in 2014, but he had to adjust to coming off the bench, battling injuries and inconsistency throughout the year.
Still, Lindsey and the Jazz consider him family and wish him the best of luck with his new team.
“We’re Rodney Hood fans. Rodney Hood should be celebrated when he comes back, and we look forward to tracking his progress with the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Lindsey said. “We’re happy to send him to a contender, that he gets to play for a good coach in Ty Lue and with a great player in LeBron James and they have a chance to do great things.
“I told Rodney today that I hope I see a playoff game on ABC where Rodney Hood hits a game-winning shot,” he added. “That would tickle me. So we’re rooting for him, we care about him and we wish him the best and we thank him for not only the efforts that he gave us the last four years but the player that he was able to return to us in Jae Crowder.”
Johnson was acquired in the summer of 2016 as an unrestricted free agent. He also battled injuries this season, missing 21 games with right wrist tendon instability.
The 36-year-old veteran is expected to seek a buyout from the Kings but could be signing with Golden State or Boston as he looks to win a title. His buzzer-beating floater in Game 1 of the 2017 playoffs series against the Los Angeles Clippers helped him become a beloved figure in the Utah community.
“Joe as a free agent chose us, he chose Quin, he chose Rudy, our style of play, our market and it was really huge for us,” Lindsey said. “The shot, his folksy, funny way. He’s become a folk hero around here.”
Hood couldn’t be reached for comment, but the Hood family said they remain thankful for the opportunity in Utah. Hood is doubtful to make his Cleveland debut against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
In Hood’s final two games with the Jazz, he averaged 24.0 points per game off the bench, including 18 Wednesday night in Memphis.
“We’ve got great respect for Rodney and (his wife) Shay, we love Rodney Jr., we love the Hood family and so Rodney was a successful player, a successful pick that netted us a very good player, and we just thank him for all of his efforts,” Lindsey said.