Duke v Mercer

How Rodney Hood used his redshirt year at Duke to transform into possible lottery pick

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CHICAGO — Among 2014 NBA Draft prospects, Rodney Hood has the unique experience of being one of the few early entrants who transferred schools and had a redshirt year.

After Hood spent his freshman season at Mississippi State under former head coach Rick Stansbury in 2011-12, the native of Meridian, Mississippi opted to transfer to Duke and sit out a season before having a solid sophomore campaign in the ACC in 2013-14.

Most early entrants in the NBA Draft aren’t likely to transfer or take a redshirt year — required by NCAA rules for transfer students that don’t get granted a waiver — like Hood did, but the lefty wing told NBCSports.com that transferring to Duke and sitting out a season before 2013-14 was the right move for him.

“The year I sat out was great for me. A lot of people back home say, ‘why did you do that? You could have been a star at State,’ but I wanted more for myself and sitting out gave me a chance to learn a lot from the seniors we had,” Hood said to NBCSports.com. “I learned a lot and got a lot stronger, stayed in the gym and it carried over to the next season because I think I had a really good season.”

Hood was good enough to earn 2012 All-SEC Freshman Team honors in his one and only season at Mississippi State, but the 6-foot-8 wing’s game took another leap after sitting out a year at Duke. Hood averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and two assists per game for the Bulldogs, but saw his scoring average rise to 16.1 points per game at Duke last season while also tallying 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Shooting percentages also skyrocketed for Hood at Duke. As a freshman, Rodney shot 44 percent from the field, 36 percent from the three-point line and 65 percent from the free-throw line. At Duke, those numbers increased to 46 percent from the field, 42 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line. The growth of Hood’s offensive game has put him in position to be a potential lottery pick in this year’s draft.

“My freshman year I was more of just a mid-range shooter. In the year off I really extended my range to the three-point line and I’ve really extended it now,” Hood said. “Mentally, it was tough. Just sitting out, knowing that you could be playing. But it was the right plan for me and I feel good about it.”

Also factoring into Hood’s improvement as a player was the demanding nature of the Duke coaching staff. Hood specifically cited former Duke assistant coach and new Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski as a major factor in his development.

“Coach Wojo is my guy. He coaches like he used to play back in the day. Fiery, passionate and whoever gets a chance to play for him at Marquette is going to have a great time because he loves the game and he knows the game,” Hood said.

After transferring into the program, Hood recalled when Wojo went off on him in a workout for going at his own pace. The experience helped show Hood how to handle things when going through practice.

“I had my first encounter [with Wojciechowski] the year I was sitting out,” Hood said. “The first workout when we had a game — the first game — and I came out there and I was shooting shots and kind of at my own pace and he slammed the ball down and went, ‘Hood! What the blank are you doing?’ and just went off and we’ve had a great relationship ever since then.”

Also receiving credit from Hood was Coach K’s style of play with Duke’s wings. The freedom that the Blue Devil offense gives talented wing players like Hood gives those wings a chance to flourish.

“Coach doesn’t put wing players in a box — and I consider Jabari a wing too. He allows me to post up, allows you to come off ball screens. If you can play, you can play; and that’s a reason I went to Duke,” Hood said.

Playing at Duke under an intense coaching staff in a league like the ACC has helped prepare Hood for the NBA Draft process as he goes through workouts and tries to answer some questions about his game.

“When I first got out there there was a lot of jitters. Now the jitters are gone once you get going and it’s great,” Hood said. “This is everybody’s [dream] journey and I’m fulfilling it now.”

Scott Phillips is a regular contributor to CollegeBasketballTalk at NBCSports.com. Follow him on twitter @phillipshoops.

Watch Kristaps Porzingis drop 30 at Rising Stars Challenge (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Knicks’ fans were in full throat at the Air Canada Centre Friday night. Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the Rising Stars Challenge (behind Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins).

Porzingis didn’t disappoint, dropping 30 and sparking a World Team comeback against the USA that just fell just short, with the USA winning 157-154.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James or any other player. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants to savor being in the All-Star spotlight one final time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.

Zach LaVine wins MVP, Kristaps Porzingis puts on show in Rising Stars Challenge

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TORONTO — Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins was the rock star of the night. “An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few dunks) leading a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few huge dunks), sparking a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

His Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns was going to have none of that.

“I gotta see Andrew Wiggins for a long time and I want to rub this in,” Towns said.

He got his wish, the USA beat the World Team 157-154.

It was a glorified pickup game for three quarters, and the level of defensive intensity will make Sunday’s All-Star game look like Tom Thibodeau teams are playing. That led to a lot of high scorers.

Zach LaVine — the other teammate of Wiggins and Towns — led the USA with 30 points and was named the game’s MVP, and said he wanted to steal Wiggins’ thunder at home.

“That’s what I was going for,” LaVine said.

Also from the USA, Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) had 25, Devon Booker (Suns) had 23 and was 5-of-8 from three, D'Angelo Russell (Lakers) had 22, and Towns chipped in 18 points and 7 boards.

Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the building, and he had 30 for the World team.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess,” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Also for the World Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) had 30 points, Wiggins had 29, and Mario Hezonja (Magic) had 19.

The intensity and defense did pick up in the end, although one wouldn’t call it a thing of beauty. What matters is the crowd in the Air Canada Centre enjoyed it, even if their team didn’t win. It’s an exhibition, and they got a show.

Report: Celtics, Cavaliers talking Kevin Love trade; could include Knicks, ‘Melo

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love holds the ball away from Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson during the second quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are looking for an elite player to improve their deep cast of role players. The Cavaliers are looking for depth. And Carmelo Anthony may just be looking to win.

All of that has talks between the Cavaliers and Celtics on a potential Love deal progressing, with the possibility of the Knicks as a third team also in the mix, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

The Daily News has learned that the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a blockbuster trade centered around Kevin Love. There were very preliminary discussions about expanding the deal to include the Knicks and Anthony, who would have to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a deal to the Cavs.

The Knicks would receive draft picks and players in return. One of those players is believed to be Timofey Mozgov, who five years ago was traded by the Knicks to Denver in the Anthony deal.

This is a longshot, but the report has some legs.

It’s not clear how far along these talks are. The trade deadline is Feb. 18 (next Thursday) and conversations tend to move past the theoretical/value judging phase and get real come All-Star Weekend, when many GMs and decision makers are in one place (and nobody can go outside because it is too cold in Toronto). This trade works for the Cavaliers if they get a quality stretch four in return — Kelly Olynyk? — plus some depth and a quality pick. The question for the Cavs is simply how much can they get back — this is a win-now team and Love helps that, so how does a trade make them better?

Would Danny Ainge move the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick to get Love? Jae Crowder? How much would Boston surrender to get an elite star, especially one under a reasonable, long contract?

Carmelo Anthony wants a ring, if he could end up playing with LeBron and be much closer to it than he is now, he would waive his no-trade clause.

That said, this trade sounds like a longshot. At least at the deadline. Next Summer… who knows?