By Re-Signing With The Trail Blazers, Hood Prioritizes Happiness

by Casey Holdahl
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LAS VEGAS -- After Rodney Hood's performance in the 2019 postseason, particularly versus the Denver Nuggets, it was reasonable to assume that the 6-8 guard/forward had done enough to price himself out of Portland. With no bird rights and only the taxpayer midlevel exception, worth roughly $5.7 million, to spend in the free agent market, retaining a player such as Hood, who has started 227 of 320 games over the last six seasons, seemed like a bit of a long shot, especially when considering numerous teams had significant cap space to spend.

And according to Hood, those assumptions were correct. When teams were allowed to enter into informal negotiations with free agents on July 1, Hood had better offers, at least from a fiscal standpoint, than anything the Trail Blazers could cobble together as a luxury tax team.

But Hood decided to return to the Trail Blazers anyway. Even though there was more money on the table from other teams, Hood opted to re-up with the Trail Blazers for next season for reasons that have little to do with dollars and cents.

"I explored other offers. You've got to do due diligence as a player, just like teams do," said Hood. "But it's what is going to make me happy? Where can I fit? Sometimes you sway with the decision of what's going to satisfy you right away. Just talking with my wife alone, a lot of conversations, staying up late, it was about long term. Where can I find a home in this league? Where can I be the best player I can be? Where is my family going to fit? All that played into it and it always came back to Portland every single time."

After being traded by the Jazz and falling out of favor with the Cavaliers, Hood seemed to get his confidence back after being acquired by the Trail Blazers in exchange for Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV and two future second-round picks. Over the course of 27 regular season games and a playoff run that culminated with a trip to the Western Conference Finals, Hood's skills seemed to be the best fit on the roster with regard to playing alongside of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

But with few means to retain Hood, his improved play once he got to Portland -- especially after averaging 14.7 points on 58 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from three versus the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals -- seemed like a catch-22 for the Trail Blazers. In helping Portland make the Western Conference Finals for the first time in nearly 20 years, the chances of his tenure in Portland ending after a few successful months seemed likely.

"What Rodney was able to do for us last year wasn't easy," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "It's not easy to come into an established situation where the team is pretty established, it's not like he came into a situation where there was a hole to fill. He came in and he fit in with the team that we had. He found his way and obviously had a huge impact on the team."

Seeing that impact prompted other teams to considering signing Hood. But between the style of play, the players on the roster and the culture of the organization, Hood decided that taking a bit less was worth the cost.

"It was a lot of deep thought between me and my family," said Hood. "Obviously my time here has been great. The first couple months, getting traded here, the fanbase really embraced me, the coaching staff, the players, the community. I feel like this is really a place where I wanted to be, I felt it in my heart. I just think it was the best decision for me."

It also happens to be a great decision for the Trail Blazers, as it allowed the team to address other areas of concern on the roster.

"That was the lynchpin. We had one tool, we had the taxpayer midlevel and we were really lucky," said Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey about signing Hood. "We worked really well with the guys from CAA -- Austin Brown, Ty Sullivan and Aaron Mintz -- they really wanted what was best for Rodney, not just basketball wise, but situationally. A place that he could flourish, a place his family could be happy, a place that he could hopefully be a part of long term.

"This isn't a rental. When we made the trade we knew we'd be limited in terms of our ability to keep him after the trade deadline, but like I said, I think some of the things that Rodney values are what we value in terms of situation, culture, character and finding a home. So that really played into it and I think once we got Rodney, that informed our ability then to shift focus to going and getting a five. We didn't necessarily have the tools with just minimum contracts at that point, we got active in the trade market -- we were very lucky to be involved in another trade (for Hassan Whiteside). And we continue to build the roster."

Hood will have the option of hitting the free agent market again after the upcoming 2019-20 season, and at that point, it's possible that another team makes an offer that they simply can't refuse plays as well for the Trail Blazers during the upcoming 2019-20 season. After all, he certainly wouldn't be the first player to get paid thanks in large part to playing in Terry Stotts' system. But with between his previous earnings and the value of finding a place you can thrive both personally and professionally, Hood's calculus for re-signing with the Trail Blazers added up.

"Happiness means a lot to me," said Hood. "I know, my family knows that about me. This is where I want to be and whatever I had to do to get through that, I was willing to do.

"I'm doing pretty well. We didn't have a lot growing up so I'm still making good money, in my opinion," said Hood. "I know I'm not making Dame (Lillard) money, but for me, I'm doing pretty well. As long as you're happy, that goes a long way in this league. If you fit somewhere and your family is welcomed, that goes a long way, and it's going to show on the court how comfortable you are."

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