(KPIX) — Quinn Cook was well traveled by the time he joined the Golden State Warriors in 2017. His long and winding road started on the basketball courts of Prince George’s County, Maryland wound its way through college and the D/G League, to the NBA.
Since his arrival in the League, he’s played for three championship contenders. The Warriors won the NBA title in 2018 and lost in the Finals last year. Cook was chasing another title this season with LeBron James and the the Los Angeles Lakers until coronavirus struck. With the release of the Showtime documentary Basketball County: In The Water, Cook joined Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on episode 37 of All The Smoke to talk about his journey.
Cook comes from an area just outside our nation’s capital — P.G. County — that has supplied the NBA, WNBA and Division I with more than its fair share of talent. That legacy of talent extended from previous generations right up through Cook and beyond. The list includes plenty of familiar names. “It means the world, growing up, wanting to be something,” said Cook. “For me, I always had K.D. (Kevin Durant) to go see and touch, Jarrett Jack, Nolan Smith, (Michael) Beasley, Jeff Green.” Victor Oladipo was his childhood best friend.
So many of those who succeed in basketball, and in life, have the right people around them along the way. And Cook was no different. “I just had so much resources to go touch,” he said, “where anytime I slacked off, was crying or wasn’t on my s***, I always had those guys to remind me [that] this is the goal.”
Cook went undrafted out of Duke and logged plenty of minutes in the NBA’s D/G League. During his first two seasons, he also saw sporadic playing time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks.
“The last year I ended in New Orleans, maybe the last 15 games, but I played well,” Cook recalled. “I stayed in New Orleans, working out every single day. I killed Summer League, I destroyed Summer League. Then New Orleans signed (Rajon) Rondo, Darius Miller, and they have to cut me. So I’m stuck. I end up getting a partial guarantee with Atlanta.”
Things seemed to go well in Atlanta until they didn’t. Cook saw only a little action in preseason and then was cut the day before contracts became guaranteed. “That’s the night, I’ll never forget it,” said Cook. “I called my mom. I called K.D. And I called Nolan Smith. I was like ‘I think I have to take a year off. I don’t think emotionally I can take this anymore.’ And I remember Nolan was like, ‘just sleep on it. You’re emotional right now, just sleep on it and call me in the morning.'”
What a difference a good night’s sleep makes. “I woke up after getting cut by the Hawks on Friday night, Saturday morning Steve Kerr called me three or four times. Literally, no disrespect to Atlanta, but that year they were the worst team in the league, so I went from getting cut by the worst team in the league to literally the next day the best team in the league wanted me on their team. It was a dream come true for me.”
Cook signed a two-way deal with Warriors, in the first year that two-way contracts existed in the NBA. “Bob (Myers) and Steve told me we’re going to treat you as our third PG,” Cook said. “I saw some opportunity. So when I went to the G League, I was killing it. I wanted to show that I do not belong down here. You all need me up there. What made that so crazy was that Steph (Curry) went down. So when Steph goes down, I get inserted into the starting lineup. Just so Shaun (Livingston) can keep that second unit right.”
Cook saw a lot of time for stretches of that season. In the last quarter, when injuries limited playing time for some of the starters, he was averaging well over 30 minutes per game. Even with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green healthy in the playoffs, not to mention Kevin Durant, Cook stayed in the rotation.
“I loved their demeanor, I loved their swagger,” said Cook. “They just had that ‘it’ factor. They know that they are the baddest dudes on the planet. They know that, on the road, everybody’s going to be against us. These guys will take their best shot at us, and they will never beat us. They always felt like they would win every single game.”
Of course they didn’t win every single game of the 2017-2018 season. They did win 58 games, however, en route to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. And then they won four more over the Cavaliers, to seal their second consecutive NBA Championship.
Watch more of Quinn Cook’s “All The Smoke” interview on the Showtime Basketball YouTube Channel.
See “Basketball County: In The Water” — a look into the community that’s given rise to dozens of elite basketball players — on Showtime.