The bad news hung heavy in the Trail Blazers locker room on Friday night.
Rodney Hood was gone by the team the doors opened to the media but the reality of the injury lingered with an undeniable weight on his teammates still processing the loss.
Hood’s season ended when he sustained a torn left Achilles tendon during the first quarter of the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The post game locker room carried a matter of fact devastation as the rest of the Blazers grappled with that injury and what it means for both Hood the person and Hood the starting small forward.
Neither Terry Stotts nor Hood’s teammates had answers for the questions they knew were coming. How can this team replace Hood and what comes next for a roster now without two opening night starters?
But there was an inevitability in the answers because the unavoidable truth is that the Blazers play Sunday night as the unrelenting NBA season will barrels forward regardless of whose available to play.
“I mean we have to,” Carmelo Anthon said when asked how the Blazers get past Hood’s injury. “We don’t have a choice but to move forward. I think these are times that troops got to rally now. Everybody’s gotta come together. Everybody’s gotta rely on one another. I mean it’s going to be hard to replace that -- what he was able to bring to this team and what he was able to do. But it’s going to take multiple people to try to contribute to what we’re trying to do.”
The Blazers already had to navigate these waters once this season, when Zach Collins tore the labrum in his left shoulder, an injury that will likely keep him out until mid-March. Collins’ injury led to signing Anthony, and the team may very well turn to an off the street free agent to replace some of Hood's production. But that wasn’t on any of the Blazers minds Friday evening.
“I don’t know. That’s a question that’s above my pay grade,” CJ McCollum said. “I get paid to play. I’m just going to continue to play and see what happens.”
The Blazers options are relatively simple Kent Bazemore will likely start while Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons will see an uptick in minutes. Mario Hezonja should get another shot in the rotation and Anthony Tolliver could see a reintroduction to regular playing time as well. Even if those choices are clear, they are all a downgrade from Hood, who was putting up career best numbers to start the season, shooting 51 percent from the field and 49 percent from three.
Saturday is a day off for the Blazers, a chance to step away from the weight of Friday’s bad news. The final 59 games are looming on the other side, starting Sunday at the Moda Center where the Blazers will face Oklahoma City without Rodney Hood in the lineup.
There weren’t many answers in the immediate aftermath of Hood’s injury, but those questions the Blazers weren’t ready or able to address will demand attention when the team returns to the arena after a 36 hour hiatus.
“Just gotta keep going forward," Terry Stotts said. "I mean we’ve got a season to play, as disappointing as it is to lose players to injuries, we have a team and we gotta just keep competing and playing. I mean you don’t have any other choice, you have disappointment for that player, that’s why I don’t think anyone is in there feeling sorry for us and the team, I think everyone’s feeling sorry for Rodney or Zach or (Jusuf Nurkic) or whatever it is. You feel for that player, but as a team we have a job to do, and we gotta go out and compete and try to win games.”