Toronto welcomes Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood into the Raptors fold

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When the Toronto Raptors traded guard Norman Powell at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, it wasn’t without appreciation for all he has accomplished with the organization in his five seasons as a Raptor. It also wasn’t without consideration of what the team could gain with the arrival of guard Gary Trent Jr. and guard-forward Rodney Hood.

“We got two players, Rodney’s more proven and then Gary Trent Jr. is a 22-year-old player with lots of upside,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said. “[Trent Jr. is] a shooter, a defender. I think [they] fit our core team, and that’s what we’re excited about. I think it works on both sides. Rodney’s a little bit of an experienced player and a veteran player and then [we also gain] a young player coming up in Gary Trent Jr.”

Hood, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, is in his seventh NBA season. The 6-foot-8 guard-forward  was the 23rd overall pick by the Utah Jazz in the 2014 NBA Draft. His career has included stops in Utah, Cleveland and Portland prior to his arrival in Toronto. In 38 games for the Blazers this season, Hood is averaging 4.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, ½ assists and 19.1 minutes. He comes to Toronto with career averages of 11.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists in 26.5 minutes per game.

Via Portland Trail Blazers reporter Casey Holdahl, Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons spoke about losing two of his teammates in the trade, while also shedding some light on Hood’s personality as the locker room joker. 

“Those were the two guys I was kind of closest with on the team, so it’s pretty tough, but it’s part of the business,” Simons said. “I’m gonna miss Rodney a lot because he’s one of the funniest, if not THE funniest [guy] on the team. We’re gonna miss his presence around all of the time.”

Hood made his return to the court this year after suffering an achilles injury during the 2019-20 season. Though Hood and Trent Jr. will be in different uniforms, Simons made it clear he’ll still be keeping tabs on his former teammates.

“We wish them good luck,” Simons said. “Rodney coming back from his injury, I hope he gets the opportunity with the Raptors to be able to showcase himself again, get back to the old Rodney. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.”

While Hood provides the Raptors with veteran experience in exchange for Powell’s own, the arrival of Trent Jr. brings another young player with room to grow. 

Trent Jr. was drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the 37th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and traded to the Trail Blazers on draft night. The Columbus, Ohio native has spent all three of his seasons in Portland. With career averages of 10.2 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 23.1 minutes per game, this has been a career-best year for Trent Jr. who is averaging 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 30.8 minutes per game over 41 appearances for the Blazers this season. In addition to his offensive skill set, Trent Jr. is already carving out a reputation as a terrific defender.

“We got a young player in Gary Trent Jr, who I think is promising and who has a really, really good upside,” Ujiri said.

Toronto’s team culture has been a large part of the team’s success in recent years. Though saying goodbye to Powell will certainly be felt, especially by the players in Toronto’s locker room who have spent much of their careers with him, Blazers big man Enes Kanter shared that Trent Jr. and Hood were similarly beloved in the Blazers locker room as well.

“People loved them so much,” Kanter said. “Every minute they were out there they were giving everything they could to help us win.”

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts provided a glimpse into what it was like to coach Trent Jr. and Hood, while also discussing why the Blazers felt Powell would be a good fit for their team. Like Ujiri, Stotts acknowledged that the trade deadline can be difficult when it involves players who have a history with an organization.

“Losing Rodney and Gary is tough,” Stotts said. “They’ve been with us for over two years, they’re good guys, good players, good teammates, and we’re going to miss having them around. When you go to the gym and you enjoy working with the people that you work with, it’s tough to lose those guys. As far as getting Norman, he’s a really good two-way player, and that’s what we need. Obviously his shooting numbers speak for themselves, but what he can do defensively on the perimeter is something that we really need and value. He’s going to have a major role with our team.”

While Ujiri discussed the difficulty in trading a player like Powell who has been with the team since he was drafted, he also expressed confidence in the core of the team as it stands today.

“We believe in Fred,” Ujiri said. We believe in OG. We believe in Pascal. We believe in [Chris] Boucher. We keep growing with our young players. We feel that as a core, that they can continue to grow and get better.”

In addition to speaking about the team’s younger players, Ujiri also emphasized the impact veteran point guard Kyle Lowry has on the team, as well as basketball in Canada as a whole. Ujiri also acknowledged the strangeness of this season, playing through a pandemic, health and safety protocols, and away from Toronto. His greatest wish, for us all, is for life to return to normal and for everyone to stay safe and healthy.

When it comes to basketball, whether it is being played in Toronto, Tampa Bay, a bubble, or somewhere else in between, the mindset remains the same. 

“We believe any time we step on that court that we can win,” Ujiri said. “That’s just how we are and that’s how we play and that’s how we want to be.” 

For Raptors fans wanting to get better acquainted with Hood and Trent Jr., they can start with checking out their Instagram accounts. Hood can be found at @hoodie5 (www.instagram.com/hoodie5) while Trent Jr. is at @gtrentjr. (https://www.instagram.com/gtrentjr)