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Rodney Hood Struggling with Spotlight, Expectations of Playing with LeBron James

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' Rodney Hood in action during the first half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday, April 20, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Rodney Hood, who hasn't appeared for the team since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, acknowledged that he's struggled to adjust to the pressures and expectations that come from playing on a team with LeBron James.

Life in the spotlight hasn't come naturally, as he told reporters, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

"This is something different. It has been tough. The basketball stuff has been the easiest part. The stuff that comes out of it, you lose a game and everyone talks about it on TV the next day. They may say some things that you may not agree with. If you win a game, you're supposed to. Those kind of things are something I kind of got on a much smaller scale and dealt with at Duke.

"You lose a game and you feel like the world is coming down. You win, it's like, you're supposed to win. It's still a struggle to me to adapt to that."

Hood, 25, has been asked to deal with less of the pressure as the playoffs have progressed. In the first round against the Indiana Pacers, he appeared in every game, averaging 6.3 points in 18.9 minutes per contest. Against the Toronto Raptors in the second round, he appeared in three of four games, scoring just 0.7 points in 13 minutes per contest.

But in the Eastern Conference Finals, Hood only appeared in three of seven games for a total of 33 minutes, posting 18 total points. And he didn't leave the bench in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Before his trade to the Cavaliers at this year's deadline, Hood averaged 16.8 points in 27.8 minutes per game with the Utah Jazz

"At times when I may lose a little bit of confidence because of playing time or whatever, I look back to my Utah highlights a lot on YouTube just to remind myself that that was this [season] when I did those things," Hood said.

His impact in Cleveland has never reached the same level, though head coach Tyronn Lue believes Hood is still building his confidence with the Cavaliers:

"Coming from a situation in Utah he was accustomed to, and then coming to a situation after midseason to a team that had championship aspirations, he didn't really get a chance to have a full year and a full training camp. But he's been great. He did great throughout the course of the regular season, and the playoffs have been just a little different for him.

"So we have confidence in him. He has to have more confidence in himself. And he's going to be a big part of what we're trying to do. So he's not 'X'd' out right now."

The Cavaliers could use a player of Hood's ability. JR Smith is shooting 35.3 percent from the field this postseason on the wing. Jordan Clarkson is shooting just 30.3 percent from the field and averaging 4.9 points per game. Only Kyle Korver (9.4 PPG this postseason, 44.6 percent from three) has made a positive impact among the team's top wing players.

That's one reason Lue has maintained that Hood will keep getting opportunities. 

"Rodney has been working hard. He had opportunities in the first round. He's been working to play, and he's going to get opportunities. Just because he didn't play [Thursday] night or that much in the Boston series, I've always talked to him about being ready, staying ready, because he is a great talent and we're going to need him. He's going to get a chance and an opportunity."

If Hood does get that opportunity, he plans on seizing it.

"One thing I have to do, and it took me and T-Lue to talk about, whether I get out there for five minutes, three minutes or 20 minutes, I have to be who I am," he said. "I can't ease my way into the game and let the game come to me. As soon as I check into the game, I have to go after it."

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