Rodney Hood uses down time in rehab to finish his degree at Duke

Rodney Hood uses down time in rehab to finish his degree at Duke

December 6th, 2019 is a night Rodney Hood would like to forget.

It was that night that Hood went up for a rebound against the Los Angeles Lakers but ended up in a heap on the floor. A victim of a ruptured Achilles tendon. 

Out for the remainder of the reason, Hood began to focus on rehab and a return for the start of the 2020-21 season. 

However, basketball wasn't the only thing on his mind: Hood also turned his attention to his education. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.]

Hood started his collegiate career at Mississippi State, before transferring to Duke after his freshman season. He sat out one year due to NCAA transfer rules, and played his redshirt sophomore season at Duke before declaring for the NBA draft. 

His college career was over, but his degree was yet to be completed. 

In the middle of rehab and with plenty of time on his hand, Hood decided it was time to finish what he started at Duke.

According to an interview with ESPN, Hood was just eight credits shy of completing his degree when he left to head to the NBA, and it was his wife Richa that urged him to return to school.

"When he got injured and tore his Achilles, that's when I really was like, 'Yeah, OK. You really need to make sure you try to focus on getting your degree, especially during this downtime...This was a perfect opportunity to earn some credits and strive to get it." - Hood's wife Richa in an interview with ESPN. 

You never know what life holds after basketball. With a potentially career-altering injury, a global pandemic, and racial tensions at a boiling point, it's now more important than ever for athletes to set themselves up for life without basketball.

"I've just got a real thirst for knowledge now, especially seeing how the world is, seeing how the disparity is with African American men, and I want to do something special," Hood told ESPN. "And getting a degree from Duke is special, especially coming from where I come from."

"An NBA player's life is a dog's life, as far as how long it is," said Mike Krzyzewski, Hood's basketball coach at Duke. "There's a lot of life ahead of you -- and that transition from whenever you stop playing to whatever that life would be I would think would be a lot easier to navigate with a college degree."

Completing his degree is not only important for Hood, but it's a source of inspiration for many people out there. It's living proof that it's never too late to set out and accomplish your goal. 

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One more conspiracy theory: Do you think NBA wants Trail Blazers to face the Lakers?

One more conspiracy theory: Do you think NBA wants Trail Blazers to face the Lakers?

You've already heard that conspiracy theory about NBA coaches doing all they can to help the Trail Blazers win seeding games, because they think the Trail Blazers have the best chance to beat the Lakers, right?

Well, I've got another theory for you that was passed along to me Wednesday night.

Ponder this one as you settle in tonight to watch Portland battle Brooklyn. This is a game that guarantees the Trail Blazers the eighth seed if they win, but could send them home if they lose.

The theory is that the NBA really needs the Lakers -- and, of course, LeBron James -- to make it to the NBA Finals. TV ratings, you know. So if the NBA has been listening to all the insiders and former players who believe Portland has a great chance to knock off Los Angeles in the first round, well...

Do you think the people who run this league would want the Lakers to have to face that kind of threat in the first round? You have to admit it would at least make them a little nervous.

And do you think that message would be sent to the officials for tonight's game? No offense, but the teams aren't exactly getting a blue-ribbon, NBA Finals-caliber crew with Eric Lewis, Gediminis Petraitis and JT Orr slated to work the game.

Now I'm not saying this could happen, but the NBA has always been a hotbed for conspiracy theories and it's my pleasure to pass this one along.

Can Damian Lillard, Blazers put the fear in LA Lakers?

Can Damian Lillard, Blazers put the fear in LA Lakers?

The Portland Trail Blazers have been the team to watch since the NBA restart.

Damian Lillard has been playing out of his mind the last two games, and the Blazers look like they can cause some problems when the playoffs come around.

And the first team that will be on the calendar for the Blazers when the playoffs start and they land the 8th seed? The Los Angeles Lakers.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

So far in the bubble, the Lakers have been a far shell of themselves over the last seven games.

Yes, they have clinched the No.1 seed in the West, but they stand at 3-4 since the restart, they rank dead last in 3-point shooting percentage (25.4%), last in field goal percentage (41.1%), and both LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been struggling on the floor and can’t seem to score.

With that being said, should the Lakers be afraid of this new-and-improved Trail Blazers team?

Yes, they should be.

Last week, Richard Jefferson joined host Channing Frye on the Talkin' Blazers Podcast and talked about how the Blazers facing the Lakers could be “the most anticipated matchup that the NBA has seen in years,” and he isn’t wrong.

[RELATED]: Richard Jefferson: Blazers - Lakers would be 'most anticipated 1st-round matchup' in years

With Damian Lillard playing the way he is playing, Carmelo Anthony showing signs of his old self, CJ McCollum hopefully being at full strength, and Gary Trent Jr. lighting it up behind the arc, the possibility of the Blazers outscoring the Lakers is looking more likely now than ever.

The idea of the Lakers losing to a team such as the Blazers early on in the playoffs is becoming a realistic possibility every time Portland and Lillard show up to play.

The Lakers will mostly be the favorite to win the series, of course, but don’t count the Blazers out just yet.

This team with Lillard leading the way could take that series down-to-the-wire and have Lakers fans really concerned.

How Giannis Antetokounmpo’s suspension impacts the Trail Blazers’ playoff race 

How Giannis Antetokounmpo’s suspension impacts the Trail Blazers’ playoff race 

After letting his emotions get the best of him, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been suspended for one game without pay, the NBA announced Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo was ejected early in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s tilt between the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards after he head-butted Wizards forward Moritz Wagner. Following the disturbing incident, Antetokounmpo was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected from the game. 

Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds for the Bucks this season, will now miss Milwaukee’s last seeding game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. This might not mean much to the Bucks or the reigning MVP, but it could have a tremendous impact on the Trail Blazers.

Portland snagged sole possession of the eight-seed in the Western Conference after taking down the Mavs with a 134-131 victory in Orlando, but the Grizzlies are still hot on their trail at just 0.5 games back.

With the Bucks star sidelined, the Grizzlies now have a substantial chance at winning Thursday’s game. It’s also worth noting Milwaukee really has nothing to play for considering it clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference awhile back. On the flip side, the Grizzlies are 1-6 in the NBA bubble and this game may not be as easy as they think it is.

[RELATED: Ja Morant said NBA's play-in wasn't fair & now the Grizzlies need it]

Here’s a look at some of the scenarios could unfold on Thursday:

Portland will be seeded:

  • #8 if Blazers win OR Grizzlies, Suns and Spurs lose
  • #9 if Blazers lose and loss by any two of Grizzlies, Suns or Spurs
  • ELIMINATED if Blazers lose and wins by any two of Grizzlies, Suns or Spurs

Memphis will be seeded:

  • #8 if Grizzlies win and Blazers lose
  • #9 if Grizzlies win and Blazers win OR Grizzlies, Suns and Spurs all lose
  • ELIMINATED if Grizzlies lose and wins by either Suns or Spurs

If you are a Trail Blazers fan, you are also keeping your eye on the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs, who are also 0.5 games back at 10th and 11th in the West respectively. 

Phoenix will be seeded:

  • #8 if Suns win and Blazers and Grizzlies both lose
  • #9 if Suns win and Blazers or Grizzlies lose
  • ELIMINATED if Suns lose

San Antonio will be seeded:

  • #8 if Spurs win and Blazers, Grizzlies and Suns all lose
  • #9 if Spurs win and loss by any two of Blazers, Grizzlies and Suns
  • ELIMINATED if Spurs lose

With Antetokounmpo benched, the Grizzlies have a real shot at salvaging their NBA bubble woes and squeaking into a playoff spot. If it wasn't clearly stated before, the Trail Blazers game vs. the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. is once again a must-win.

"That's the most important game of our lives," Damian Lillard told TNT in an on-court interview after Tuesday’s win over the Mavs. "Tonight was great. We said we need one win. We're going to focus on one game. We got this one done. And that's the most important one. We got to finish it out right."

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon]

Damian Lillard is ‘Jesus, masquerading in Adidas’

Damian Lillard is ‘Jesus, masquerading in Adidas’

For the last two games, Damian Lillard has been playing like he is gunning for the NBA bubble MVP and most certainly for a spot in the playoffs. 

Dropping 51 points against the 76ers and following it with 61 points against the Mavericks to help keep the Blazers alive and in the 8th seed, Dame is a man on a mission since his missed free throw attempts against the Clippers last Saturday.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

Now we know Skip Bayless has been a hater, not giving Lillard the credit he justly deserves.

[RELATED]: Skip Bayless refuses to give Damian Lillard credit where credit is due

Bayless’ ‘Undisputed’ co-host Shannon Sharpe, on the other hand, has been quite amazed at what Lillard has been doing.

So much so, Sharpe went so far as to make a Divine comparison. You guessed it: Jesus.

I was thinking to myself, you know what? That is Jesus.. masquerading as Dame Lillard in Adidas - -Shannon Sharpe

As bold of a statement as that may be, Lillard has been showing up and showing out in this restart when the Blazers need him.

Scoring 112 points in the last two games is a statement on its own, and it’s good to see at least one of the hosts from FS1’s Undisputed can see the incurable play Lillard has been displaying.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

Big Z's bubble: There's no limit to who Zach Collins will trash talk

Big Z's bubble: There's no limit to who Zach Collins will trash talk

It's time to get the latest scoop from the NBA Bubble with Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins! 

There’s no doubt Zach Collins has been the biggest Bubble source for us here at NBC Sports Northwest.

Over the past few weeks, the Trail Blazers 7-footer has taken us on a tour of the team’s hotel’s pop-up barbershop and given us a look at how the NBA is keeping the Blazers fed! Plus, we’ve learned a lot more about Collins as well.

With this being the final week of seeding games for the Trail Blazers, it also means it's the last week of 'Big Z’s Bubble' features. Zach has been answering the best questions from social media -- live from Orlando.

This week's questions are top notch. Good work once again, Rip City! 

Avolon on Instagram wanted to know: Who has better style – Zach Collins or Jususf Nurkic?

Sure, nobody will be surprised by Collins’ answer in the video above, but just wait until you hear that confidence in his voice while answering this question!  

[RELATED]: Zach Collins still gets hate mail from Warriors fans after run-in with Klay Thompson

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon]:

Also, here’s a SPOILER ALERT for GONZAGA FANS:  

Collins and his fellow Gonzaga alumni have been getting together to have dinner in the bubble.

RipCity on Twitter asked: How often do you hang out with players from other teams?

There’s a lot of Zags in the bubble… We’ve been to a couple of dinners with each other. We’ve done that. But besides that, I haven’t’ really hung out with too many people in the bubble. It’s mostly just been my teammates… But definitely the Zags – we’ve gotten together a couple of times. That’s awesome – seeing people you played with and then talking with people who have been in the Gonzaga program and have had different experiences, and sharing those stories with each other is pretty cool. -- Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins

Thanks to Plata B on Instagram we now have a better understanding of Zach’s trash talking game after Collins answered this question:

Is there anyone in the league you won’t talk trash to?

Short answer: NO.

Long answer:

I’m not a guy who goes out of my way to talk trash. I think that kind of gets me out of focus on what’s going on. I think my play needs to do the talking. BUT, if a player comes at me or if I feel like they’re taking cheap shots at me, we’re gonna have a conversation, for sure. And that stuff just gets me going… There’s not a limit of who I go at, if they go at me. -- Zach Collins

P.S. – We also learn more about Big Z being a big fan of LaMarcus Aldridge.

Yep, this is a fun-filled 'Big Z’s Bubble !' You can check out the final installment of ‘Big Z’s Bubble’ right here or you can also watch the video above.

And be sure to catch Collins and the Trail Blazers Thursday night on the official network of the Blazers, NBC Sports Northwest! Coverage starts at 4:30p.m. with 'Blazers Game Day' followed by 'Blazers Warm-up' at 5:00p.m. and 'Blazers Pregame' at 5:30p.m. And then it's the Blazers vs. the Brooklyn Nets at 6:00p.m.

Don't miss a second of the action on NBCSNW or by downloading the MyTeams App to live stream the game.

Adidas drops Dame 6 prices to $61 to celebrate Lillard’s 61-point outburst 

Adidas drops Dame 6 prices to $61 to celebrate Lillard’s 61-point outburst 

Damian Lillard is racking up more than just numbers on the court. 

After the Trail Blazers star poured 61 points over the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night, Adidas is celebrating Lillard, who joined the legendary Wilt Chamberlain as the only player in the league with three 60-point games in a single season.

In honor of Dame’s 61-point barrage, Adidas has lowered the prices of his Dame 6 signature shoes (and several Dame 5s) to just $61 for a limited time. This is quite the deal as Lillard fans would typically have to fork out $110 to snag a pair of Dame’s signature kicks.

Since signing to three stripes in 2012, Lillard has released six signature shoes and seventh model is anticipated for later. The kicks Dame rocked vs. the Mavs are also available with a price tag of you guessed it-- $61. 

It’s a win-win for Lillard, who has been absolutely dismantling teams in the NBA bubble, and cashing in big in his bank account thanks to his off-the-court endeavors.  

The five-time NBA All Star torched Luka Doncic and the Mavericks on Tuesday night as the Trail Blazers took sole possession of the eighth seed in the Western Conference after an impressive 134-131 win over the Mavericks. Lillard scored 61 points, 22 of which came in the fourth quarter,

Now you can channel your inner Lillard Time by copping a pair of Dame 6s at this exclusive price.

Sizes are going quick, fam, so get your Dame’s while before they are out of stock. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

Ja Morant said NBA's play-in wasn't fair & now the Grizzlies need it

Ja Morant said NBA's play-in wasn't fair & now the Grizzlies need it

Heading into the NBA's restart in Orlando, the Memphis Grizzlies held a 3.5 game lead for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

However, the Grizzlies were not guaranteed a playoff berth heading into the restart with the NBA instead electing for a play-in tournament, if necessary. As long as the ninth seed in the West was within 3.5 games of the eighth seed, a series of games would be played to determine who will advance to the Western Conference Playoffs. The eighth seed would only need to win once while the ninth seed would need to win twice.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

Before beginning the seeding games in Orlando, Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant was asked by ESPN's Rachel Nichols if he felt the play-in format for the eighth seed was fair.

He did not.

Honestly, I don’t think so, but we can't control that. Only thing we can control is how, you know, we go out and attack each of these games before that decision is made. -- Ja Morant

[RELATED]: Ja Morant says NBA's play-in format isn't fair ahead of game vs. Blazers

The Grizzlies felt there was no way they could blow a 3.5 game lead for a playoff spot with 17 games remaining. They managed to do it in seven, losing possession of the eighth seed Tuesday evening following the Portland Trail Blazers' victory over Dallas. 

Memphis went from being seen as the far and away favorite to get the eighth seed after the seeding games with -120 odds in Westgate, to not even being the eighth seed in the West with one seeding game to go. A disastrous 1-6 record in the seeding games leaves the Grizzlies in danger of not even making the play-in series due to the hot play of Phoenix and San Antonio.

The Grizzlies can still earn the ninth seed with a win over the best team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, on Thursday.

"What motivates us is that 1-6 record, that's not good enough for us," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters. "We've got a chance against the best team in the league on Thursday and whatever we can throw at 'em, we've got to throw it all on the line and see what happens after that."

With the East's top seed locked up, Mike Budenholzer may rest his starters. But, if he chooses to play them for even just the first half, the Bucks and their 9.7 net rating could easily eliminate the Grizzlies from postseason contention. 

"One game left. Attack that game as any other game," Ja Morant said following a loss to Boston on Tuesday. "Don't put any pressure on ourselves and go out and try to do what we do every game, try to get a win."

Two weeks ago, Ja Morant was saying the play-in format was unfair. Now, he and his team are relying on it to continue their season.

Skip Bayless refuses to give Damian Lillard credit where credit is due

Skip Bayless refuses to give Damian Lillard credit where credit is due

If Damian Lillard and Skip Bayless had a relationship status on Facebook, it'd say 'It's Complicated.' 

Things are a bit rocky between the Trail Blazers franchise point guard and the TV pundit.

One can recall to two days ago when both Lillard and Bayless sparred on social media, and you can understand why.

Lillard took those words to heart about Bayless basically criticizing “Dame Time” and questioning his capacity as a player after the loss against the Clippers.

Since then, Lillard has been playing on a whole different planet.

Over the last two games, Lillard has scored a combined 112 points, is the first Blazer ever with back-to-back 50 point games, and is the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to have three 60 point games in a season.

On Wednesady, Lillard and the Trail Blazers woke up to being 8th in the West because of Lillard's otherworldly performances. 

If the Blazers had lost, they would have dropped all the way down to the 11th spot and potentially out of playoff contention.

One would think after these last two games, Bayless might bite his tongue, eat crow and apologize to Lillard.

You thought wrong.

Instead, Bayless sent out a series of tweets looking for the tiniest of details to give the credit to Lillard that he deserves in the first place.

Bayless did not stop there. On Wednesday morning's 'Undisputed', Bayless dug an even bigger hole, discrediting Lillard, despite tying a career-high 61 points. 

It was “Dame Time” for 46 and a half minutes, and then, it wasn’t. -- Skip Bayless 

Bayless cherry picked, seemingly ignoring all of the Lillard’s 61 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebound performance and instead, focused on Lillard not being a “superstar” in the last remaining minutes of the game.

Mainly, he focused on Lillard missing a defensive assignment against Dorian Finney-Smith.

It resulted in Lillard receiving an offensive foul against Trey Burke and the basket didn’t count, but Bayless felt as if that was enough to shrug off Lillard's historic performance that kept the Blazers alive.

Bayless is an instigator. He's made a career of riling athletes up to give him fodder. 

But, this is not a hill the FS1 commentator should want to die on. 

Bayless can say what he wants, but anyone with healthy working eyes can see that Lillard is on another level since the NBA restart.

The Blazers are still in the hunt, which gives more games to prove to Bayless that he is just plain wrong about his take on Lillard and the Blazers.

This is not the first time Bayless has been wrong before, so let's look back at all the time Mark Cuban decided to own him on his show.

Skip, you're wrong. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]


Damian Lillard is making sure Blazers' Disney World trip isn't a 'waste of time'

Damian Lillard is making sure Blazers' Disney World trip isn't a 'waste of time'

Damian Lillard made sure his own birthday wish came true.

Before the seeding games started, the Trail Blazers gathered in a ballroom in their Yacht Club hotel to celebrate Lillard’s 30th birthday. He stood before the entire team and explained his one birthday wish.

“Let’s not waste our [freaking] time down here,” the Blazers point guard said.

Thanks in large part to his own heroics, Lillard’s wish has been granted. 

Lillard had 61 points on Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, carrying the Blazers while tying his own franchise record for points in a game. He went 17-for-32 from the floor, hit nine three-pointers and made all 18 of his free throws. This performance came on the heels of 51 points to key a late rally against Philadelphia on Sunday.

More than the 112 over his last eight quarters was the fact that Lillard saved the Blazers from the brink of a painful collapse. A loss in either of their previous two games and the Blazers would currently be sitting in 11th place, needing help to earn a spot in the play-in game. But following historic performances from Lillard, in which he became the first player in franchise history to have consecutive 50-point games, the Blazers are now alone in eighth place and control their destiny heading into their final seeding game on Thursday.

The math is simple. If the Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets, they’ll finish in eight place and need to beat the ninth place finishers once in a double-elimination play-in scenario over the weekend to officially earn a playoff spot. 

“Nobody wanted to come into this bubble and make the playoffs more than Dame,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We’ve got one more game to go but his leadership -- obviously his game speaks for itself -- but he’s bringing the team along with him.”

Without Lillard’s eruptions Portland’s path forward would be very murky. Memphis, Phoenix and San Antonio are all tied a game behind the Blazers with one seeding game left on their schedules. The difference in a waste of time and a memorable playoff push is razor thin, but Lillard’s 22-point fourth quarter on Tuesday was an emphatic declaration that the Blazers stay at Disney World would be time well spent. The margin between out of control and complete control was a Mickey Mouse whisker, and with that little room to spare Lillard delivered in the Magic Kingdom.

With time to process the moment and collect his thoughts, Lillard spoke to the media about 20 minutes after the game ended and didn’t sound like someone resting on his laurels or basking in two performances that rival any back-to-back games in team history. Instead he sounded like a man still focused on his birthday wish, committed to not wasting the opportunity.

“I know it was a great game; last game and this game. But I’m going out there thinking,  ‘I’m going to do whatever I got to do for us to win these games,’” Lillard said, noting that his friends sometimes get on him for not appreciating his accomplishments in the moment.

When a reporter noted that that was perhaps because the job wasn’t finished with one more game on the schedule that the Blazers need to win in order to guarantee they land the eighth seed, Lillard agreed.

“I just move on,” Lillard said. “Whatever’s necessary.”

The Blazers and Lillard gave themselves a chance to be in control of their playoff dreams. They guaranteed themselves a chance to move on to the next hing, making sure this whole experiment wasn’t a waste of time.