The Cleveland Cavaliers capped off a stunning second-round playoff series on Monday night, sweeping the top-seeded Toronto Raptors with a 128-93 win in Game 4.
LeBron James was his usual productive self, scoring 29 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds en route to his eighth straight conference finals appearance.
Considering the doubts and questions that arose when Cleveland needed seven games to defeated an inferior Indiana Pacers team, the Cavs were understandably joyous about making such quick and dominating work of the Raptors.
“So as everyone was burying my teammates alive throughout that first-round series, I just continued to tell them, ‘Listen, we can’t win without each and every one doing their job and being as great as they can be,’ and I continued to preach that,” James said after the game, per ESPN. “So it’s impossible for me to lose confidence in our ballclub, no matter what the stakes are or where we’re down, because if I do that, then where are we going to go from a team aspect?”
“You see everybody smiling tonight,” Cavaliers point guard George Hill added. “Kind of set that tone that that’s how it should be.”
Everybody on the Cleveland side was smiling after the series-clinching win … except one player.
Cavaliers shooting guard Rodney Hood, still just 25 and presumed to be a big part of his team’s future prior to Monday night, refused to enter the game in the fourth quarter of a blowout, according to The Athletic. Unsurprisingly, Hood’s teammates and coaches were angry at him.
Acquired at the trade deadline to inject some youth, athleticism and shooting to the Cavaliers roster, Hood averaged 10.8 points per game — down from his career mark of 13.0 ppg — on 44.2 percent shooting in 21 games for Cleveland. He shot 35.2 percent from the three-point arc, which is more than enough to keep defenses honest.
But on Monday, a visibly frustrated Hood apparently wanted nothing to do with the massive team win.
“This is the playoffs,” an anonymous Cavaliers player told The Athletic. “We’re trying to win a championship. This isn’t about you.”
One glaring reason for Hood’s malcontent is probably the fact that he was replaced in the rotation by Turkish rookie Cedi Osman in Game 4. It’s always difficult for an established NBA starter to cede minutes to a rookie.
Hood has also seen his role with the Cavaliers significantly diminish as he began to struggle with his jump shot in the playoffs. Hood averaged a healthy 18.9 minutes per game against the Pacers, though he shot a ghastly 17 percent from the three-point line.
Against the Raptors, Hood’s struggles continued, as he saw a meager 39 total minutes across four games. That’s less than 10 minutes per game.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman will reportedly discuss Hood’s antics with him.
A secondary factor in Hood’s refusal to enter the game could also have to do with his pending free agency. Hood will be a restricted free agent after the season, meaning that the Cavaliers will have the right to match any offer sheet that Hood signs. Hood likely wanted to avoid suffering an injury in a meaningless part of the game, as that could impact his upcoming payday.
The great irony, of course, is that Hood probably did just as much damage to his free agent status with his impetuous and selfish behavior as he could’ve with a hypothetical injury.
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