Danny Green and Quinn Cook both signed contracts fairly late in free agency. Although that ended up being a win for the Lakers, both players expressed some discomfort at the fact that they had to wait so long in the process to find a home for the 2019-20 NBA season.
For Green, despite being a key piece on the team that just won an NBA championship, his market was constrained by Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors only really wanted Green back if they could repeat, which meant Leonard would have to stay in Toronto, and the other contenders with cap space to sign Green (like the Lakers and Clippers) were waiting on Leonard to decide first.
Green was able to communicate with Leonard during free agency, but it doesn’t seem like Leonard was that forthcoming about his process. While OKC and the Clippers were working through the Paul George trade, Green had no idea why there was a delay for his former teammate to make a choice.
“It made sense why he waited for that to happen,” Green said on a media conference call Thursday. “But nobody knew about it. I had no idea. I checked in with him all the time, but he gave me no updates. I had no idea where he was going, that’s why I had to wait, and that’s what probably made that time period, I wouldn’t say frustrating, but probably a little more antsy because you have no idea what’s going on.”
As a result, Green was forced to be patient and hope that the NBA’s musical chairs left a space for him to get paid when Leonard’s song was up. Even though Green ended up getting a sizable contract from a team that he considers a championship contender, watching the rest of the money in the league dry up had to be a stressful feeling.
“It was hectic, man. Luckily I was busy doing camps so it kept my mind off it a little bit, and not as antsy or anxious or sweating too much,” Green said. “But those five days seemed like five months.... Like, you think a day goes by pretty fast, but the way it was happening when I was talking to [Kawhi], you would think it was a week.
“But I was distracted by the kids at the camps and having fun with that, and not trying to get too crazy over it, or think too much about it. Luckily I was in a really good position where some teams were waiting as well, and waited on me. I had some good opportunities, so it worked out all for the best.”
Green was able to maintain some semblance of leverage because the Dallas Mavericks were interested in him regardless of what happened with Leonard. Nevertheless, for a player who has always been in championship contention (he started his career in Cleveland next to LeBron James before going to San Antonio and then Toronto), that probably felt like a last resort.
For Quinn Cook, another important player on a team that made the NBA Finals, his free agency was complicated because he was a restricted free agent. That meant Golden State had the right to match any contract Cook signed since the Warriors extended him a qualifying offer, but it also meant that Cook was a bystander during the craziest offseason in recent memory.
The Warriors lost two of their major contributors in Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala while executing a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell, who plays the same position as Cook. As an outsider, it was hard to tell what direction they were going, and Cook felt the same way.
“Obviously, being a restricted free agent is different, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I felt that Golden State would want me back, just for what I’ve done the past few years. And when they gave me my qualifying offer, it definitely felt good just to know I’d have a job next year,” Cook said. “I had some interest from some teams... But not enough to offer me anything, and I was ready to sign my qualifying offer back with Golden State, and they withdrew it.”
Once Cook became unrestricted, the Lakers pounced, and it ended up working out swimmingly for the fourth-year guard.
“I was unrestricted, and I had some teams reach out, then the Lakers thing came about, and it was just perfect,” Cook said. “Our talks were great and everything went how it was supposed to, and we got it done.”
As the NBA features more and more player movement, it’s statistically probable that two players who faced each other in the Finals would become teammates — for an entirely different team — just weeks later, but that doesn’t make it any less weird. The constant changeover within the league is simply another added stressor during free agency.
The incumbent Lakers have tried to make the transition as painless as possible for their new teammates. Green said that James and Kyle Kuzma reached out and set up a group text for all the new players. He also said that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contacted him on social media and sent him his number. In contrast to how long it took him to sign with the Lakers, Green noted that the welcome from his new teammates was unusually swift.
“I haven’t done this a bunch of times, but normally I haven’t gotten that welcome,” Green said. “They’re doing a great job. All the guys that are on the roster at this time reached out and made me feel welcomed into the family.”
The Lakers have an interesting group of players in that only Kuzma has been on the team longer than one season. Therefore, they’re probably fairly adept in starting new relationships and trying to build team chemistry from scratch. Everyone on this roster, except for James, knows what it’s like to be in basketball limbo, whether they’re on the trading block or simply scraping by for their next NBA contract.
Green and Cook both had to work through the G League to arrive in stable NBA situations. After that struggle, they still found themselves in a precarious situation in free agency, unsure of what the market would leave for them after the stars made their decisions. Fortunately, they have found a place on a team that has similar expectations to the teams they just left. Once they can move past the madness of the offseason and settle down to playing basketball again, they both should feel right at home.