OAKLAND — The players on the court mostly remained anonymous. The ones on the sideline were not.
The Warriors’ G-League affiliate played last Friday in Santa Cruz, filled with players eager to impress enough NBA talent evaluators so that they can achieve their dream. Warriors guard Stephen Curry and forward Kevin Durant then walked in, symbolizing a status nearly every basketball player aspires to reach.
Quinn Cook recalled their arrival gave Friday’s game against the Wisconsin Herd “a different buzz.” For Cook, though, their presence provided another example of their ongoing support. Cook and Durant grew up as childhood friends in the Washington D.C. area. Since the Warriors signed Cook this fall to a two-way contract, Curry, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, among others, have encouraged him.
“Sometimes you’re frustrated because you’re not where you want to be down there,” Cook said. “But when you see guys come out and get texts from [Iguodala], Draymond and telling me to keep doing what I’m doing, that means a lot. They’re paying attention. They want us to be ready.”
The Warriors (10-3) could receive clarity on Cook’s readiness pretty soon. They recalled Cook from Santa Cruz to participate in Monday’s shootaround in case he is needed against the Orlando Magic (8-5) at Oracle Arena. With the Warriors listing Curry as questionable to play because of a right thigh contusion, there appears a good chance Cook will assume a reserve role while veteran guard Shaun Livingston slides into the starting lineup.
It is a good thing then that Cook has always packed a bag ahead of time in case the Warriors recall him. It is even a better thing that Cook has averaged 26 points, 7.4 assists and 5.8 rebounds in five games with Santa Cruz. After the Duke product went undrafted in 2015, Cook then earned D-League Rookie of the Year honors.
“My thing is always being ready. I don’t want to have any regrets that I wasn’t ready when my opportunity was called upon,” Cook said. “That’s been my MO – always being ready. I know I can play in this league. So for Golden State to give me another opportunity, it’s just a thankful experience and it’s humbling. I’m trying to buy in and do whatever coaches needs me to do.”
The Warriors have liked what they have seen so far with Cook’s work ethic, shooting and understanding of the team’s system.
“He’s been playing amazing. I really do like his game. I really think he’s a long-tenured NBA player,” Livingston said. “He has a shot. It’s just about the right situation and right fit.”
Cook has a unique challenge with the Warriors because of their superior talent and depth. The Warriors simply signed Cook on a two-way contract as insurance for Curry and Livingston. As a two-way player, Cook can spend up to 45 days with the Warriors for practices and game appearances. While he makes $75,000 with the G-League this season, Cook’s salary will be prorated to the NBA’s rookie minimum salary for any days he wears the Warriors’ uniform.
“His command of the game and controlling the game, you can tell he has gotten so much better,” Durant said. “Quinn has been a hard worker his whole life. Hopefully his chances comes sooner rather than later. I know he’ll be prepared for it.”
Cook said he has felt more prepared partly because of Durant’s influence. Cook called Durant “my big brother,” while crediting him for various adversities, including losing his father, finding the right agent and navigating through the grind of landing an NBA roster spot.
“We dreamed about playing in the NBA. We never thought we’d be on the same team,” Cook said. “For him to be here with me through this is one of the best feelings. We’re so close. We grew up together and knew that if we worked hard, we can both make it in the NBA.”
Cook could have a big chance of reaching that dream soon.