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.

Heat players past, present throw support behind David Fizdale heading to Memphis

David Fizdale
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The Memphis Grizzlies have found their man — Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale has been offered the head coaching job in Memphis. He’s a smart coach who earned the trust of elite players and was a key part of the staff that helped Miami to a couple of rings.

It’s a good hire. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what a couple Heat players from that era had to say.

Mario Chalmers had a first-hand view — he was traded from Miami to Memphis in the middle of last season. The point guard who went the other way in that deal, Beno Udrih, also helped push the deal along.

Fizdale is going to be a popular hire with the players. That said, if the Grizzlies can’t keep Mike Conley in free agency the team is going to have struggles this season, regardless of who coaches them.

Watch Kevin Love drop 25 points on Toronto

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Before Game 5, Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue told Kevin Love just to stay aggressive. Channing Frye told him the same thing.

Love took that advice to heart. From the opening tip of Game 5, Love was attacking — backing down the overmatched Luis Scola and knocking down threes. Love had 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 25, helping spark an easy, 38-point Cavaliers win in Game 5.

Now, can Love do this on the road in Game 6?

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.