It seemed like Déjà vu: The Trail Blazers met their injured teammate in the locker room to offer him a hug, their thoughts and prayers, and to offer support to their comrade.
First, it was Jusuf Nurkic. Then, Zach Collins.
Friday night, with the Los Angeles Lakers in town, the Blazers lost their starting small forward Rodney Hood to a season-ending Achilles injury.
“I’m very sad,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said following the Blazers 136-113 loss to the Lakers. “Very disappointed for Rodney, he was having a good year for us. I hate for anybody to have an injury like that, that takes them out for the season. I feel for him.”
Hood suffered what was initially called a lower leg injury with 3:27 in the first quarter. By halftime, the Trail Blazers announced Hood had suffered a torn left Achilles tendon, confirmed by an MRI.
Hood said after the Blazers win over the Kings on Wednesday that his left Achilles was bothering him during the game and that he wasn’t sure if he would be able to play vs. the Lakers. The 27-year-old was even subbed out in the fourth quarter because of left Achilles soreness.
Friday night, Coach Stotts said Hood cleared all of the team's protocols before the game and there was never a question that Hood wouldn’t play against the Lakers.
As one would expect, the Trail Blazers locker room was somber. They stood at their lockers trying to put into words how difficult it was to watch Hood, one of their brothers, go down the way he did with a non-contact injury.
“It’s tough, man,” Damian Lillard said postgame. “You hate to see injuries in the league period, but you hate to see one of your teammates go down to an injury like that, especially a starter and somebody that’s really a good person, having a great season, fitting in really well with our team and a big part of what we do. You feel for him personally more than anything. Just sad to see that happen to him.”
Hood was averaging 11.5 points on an efficient 50.9 percent shooting from the floor, while shooting 49.3 percent from three this season.
The Trail Blazers team captain is giving Hood space before he talks with him.
“So many emotions come with that and a lot going on in his head, I didn’t want to press him about it. I’m sure we’ll talk. I just told him to keep his head up. I saw where his spirits were – he had a smile on his face even though I know he probably hurting on the inside. I’m sure we’ll talk,” Lillard said.
The Trail Blazers and Lakers were exchanging baskets before Hood headed back to the locker room.
Before losing Hood, Portland already had a difficult task facing the 20-3 Lakers.
Skal Labissiere, who had to leave the game briefly in the first quarter to have four stitches, put in his upper lip, discussed how big of void it was losing Hood.
“Obviously he’s a big part of our team, we felt that when he went down. We hope and wish that he has a really good recovery,” Labissiere said.
For us it’s about the next man up. It’s been like that since the end of last year when [Jusuf] Nurkic went down and even into this season, so we just have to keep staying together. We’ve encountered a lot of adversity already this season and we just have to keep pushing. We have no other choice and perseverance I think is a big word for us… We have a great group of guys. Guys that work hard and we understand the situation, and we’re just going to have to keep having to preserve. -- Skal Labissiere
Hood held the second-best three-point shooting percentage in the league earlier this season. He exuded confidence and became a go-to guy for the Trail Blazers.
Both CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony reflected on Hood’s season so far this year.
“It’s heartbreaking, McCollum said. "I know how hard he worked, the type of season he was having, what he means to our team, you never want to see anything like that… I saw him briefly. I mean, what do you say? I just gave him a hug… There’s no words that can help in that situation."
What he was able to bring to this team early on in the season, how he was playing, playing at a all-time high level, having a career start to the season, and just the snap of a finger his season is gone right now. -- Carmelo Anthony postgame
Injuries like a torn Achilles always put the game of basketball in perspective.
And that’s what Melo was feeling:
“You forget all about the actual game. You realize how wins and losses really doesn’t mean anything at this particular moment. It puts a lot of things in perspective to lose a guy like that.”
Hood was not in the locker room when the media was allowed in, but right next to Hood’s locker stood young Anfernee Simons. He was one of the first players to talk about losing his teammate.
“You just don’t know what to think… We’re just going to be supporting him and praying for him. We’re going to be there for him every step of the way for his recovery,” Simons said.
Simons also mentioned that he was able to have a brief conversation with his teammate after the game:
“I just told him God always has a plan and just keep the faith, and I’m praying for him.”
As Hood and the Blazers look to keep the faith, they will continue to preserve, and lean on each other.
The first chance the Blazers will have to come together as a team will be Sunday when the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town.