New-Look Second Unit Ready for Their Closeup
Providing The Spark Entitlement
Does being a left-handed shooter have any advantages?
Rodney Hood: Not really as a shooter, but when guys guard you, it throws them off and takes them a while to adjust. So, I try to use that to my advantage to keep people off balance because people don't grow up going against a lot of lefties.
Did you ever go against a guy who didn’t know (and you knew he didn’t know)?
Hood: (laughs) Well actually, most of the time, even if they do know, it still takes them a while to adjust. Most guys are used to guarding right foot up, and I like to attack the right leg first so ... it's worked out pretty well for me so far.
How were you and the new guys able to hit the ground running in those first two games?
Hood: I think the biggest thing is not coming in, thinking too much. There's a lot to pick up on. We've still got a lot to learn, but at the same time, just coming in and bringing energy to the game.
And I think that's how we're going to fit regardless of whether we'd picked up the offense or not.
Be active on defense and, offensively, just play together, play the game the right way, run the floor and have active bodies. I think that's the biggest thing we've been doing.
Did it help that you arrived with three other guys?
Hood: Oh yeah, it definitely did. George (Hill) is a guy I played with in Utah. So, that was good. Jordan (Clarkson) and I came into the league together the same year. So coming here is fresh for all of us is good; it lessened the anxiety of the whole thing.
How do you see this opportunity – being fast-tracked and gunning for an NBA title?
Hood: It's a great opportunity for me, just being in my fourth year and getting the chance to compete for a Championship. You have to take the steps to do it.
I've never been in this type of situation, but you want to come in, just play hard and try to advance -- and hopefully get to the Finals.
How did your mindset change this season – going from a starter to a reserve role?
Hood: It changed a little bit -- but in a good way, especially when I was in Utah. It was kind of like I felt like I was too good to come off the bench in Utah, and it helped my play.
And now I keep that edge. I feel like coming off the bench I have a favorable matchup every night. That's how I feel – especially here, now.
How do you see your opportunities shaping up with this second unit?
Hood: It's going to be great.
You have Jordan being aggressive, drawing a ton of attention. You have Kyle Korver, who's the best pure shooter in the league. Jeff (Green) is so underrated with his athleticism and his ability to handle the ball. And then Larry (Nance Jr.) puts a lot of pressure on the rim. Guys will have to leave me and help on his roll, so that frees me up.
This second unit can be really, really good. We have to keep learning and pick up some things, but we've had a good start so far.
Any expectations for your first home game at The Q?
Hood: Man, I'm excited! I think we're ALL excited just to get back playing basketball and it's our first home game. We kind of got some of the nerves out on the road. But coming home, we obviously want to play in that great atmosphere.
And I'm pretty sure it's gonna be rockin'.
BY THE NUMBERS
When you think back about the great reserves in Cavaliers history, two-time All-Star Terrell Brandon rarely comes to mind.
But before emerging as one of the franchise’s best point guards, he was an apprentice for three years under arguably the Cavaliers’ cream of the crop at that position – Mark Price.
Drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 1991 Draft after a record-breaking career at Oregon, Brandon had to wait his turn behind the perennial All-Star, who was in the prime of his career despite coming off an injury the previous season.
Brandon still flourished off the bench in those early years. The Portland native was solid, skilled and durable through his first two seasons – playing in all 82 games, averaging 8.1 points and 3.8 assists. In his rookie season, he was part of the most productive second unit in team history (until this year’s group).
The soft-spoken Brandon credited both Price and another little-known former Cavs guard for his baptism into the Association.
”It was extremely easy,” recalled Brandon. “I think John Morton really helped me before Price was even ready to play. I was able to learn from John Morton during those first couple weeks and that helped me out tremendously. And then once I started the first couple weeks and Mark came in, and I went to where I was supposed to be anyway – a backup.
”But I was able to pick (Price)’s brain and see how he was dealing with the veterans, more than just the young players. Because I knew that the veterans were the players who I was going to be playing with consistently. And I wanted to know how he was talking to them, even though I was a young player. And granted, I was really, really fortunate to have veterans with zero egos – guys like Larry Nance, Hot Rod Williams, Craig Ehlo, Price, Brad Daugherty. These were just laid-back gentlemen, and I think that really helped me a lot.”
Brandon would eventually take over where Price left off in 1995-96, earning his first All-Star appearance while averaging 19.3 points and 6.4 assists per contest in his first year as a starter.
He was even better the following year, making his second straight trip to the Midseason Classic and establishing himself as the squad’s floor general. During that season, Sports Illustrated featured him on the cover, labeling him “The Best Point Guard in the NBA.”
The Cavs have had some great lead guards patrolling the backcourt during their existence. But they may never have the embarrassment of riches that they did when Mark Price and Terrell Brandon were their one-two punch at the point.