The first impression I had of Quinn Cook when he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers was that he was a big fan of two things: his mentor LeBron James, who helped convince Lakers executive Rob Pelinka to sign Cook, and the Lakers themselves, as Cook grew up watching games with his late father and is arguably the biggest fan of the team to ever wear the purple and gold in the NBA.
Cook told me back in October that his preseason debut for the team — in which he dropped 16 points in his return from injury — was “a dream come true,” but the things that followed it probably weren’t exactly what he fantasized about while watching games as a kid.
Cook has earned praise for a few good performances this season, but those efforts were mostly scattered in between DNP-CDs and struggles when he did play. Cook came to the Lakers to win a title with James and Anthony Davis, but while the team appears on track to have a real chance at that, he wasn’t a consistent part of it.
That’s all changed over the last week, as Cook has been unearthed off the bench due to absences from James and Rajon Rondo, and has acquitted himself well. Playing double-digit minutes for the first time in nearly a month, Cook has averaged 14 points on 54.8% shooting while knocking down 46.7% of his threes over the last three games.
After scoring a season-high 22 in the Lakers’ 119-118 loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, Cook told Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times that James (and Davis) helped him stay ready to go when his name was called:
Cook said he and James were closer now than they were back then and that James and Davis consistently supported him. “Obviously they give everybody confidence on our team, but us three are always together. Us three are always playing around, joking and stuff. He gives me confidence every single day,” Cook said. “He believes in me, and that’s all you can ask for from your leader. And it means a lot.
“He’s been my mentor since I was 18 years old. He was my vet when I was his rookie in Cleveland, so he’s always been a big brother to me, and he was instrumental in me coming here. He’s just the best teammate you could ever ask for, and it’s just an honor to play with somebody like that.”
Despite his up-and-down opportunities, Cook has seemed to really relish his first season playing for the team he grew up rooting for, and has consistently credited his teammates and the coaching staff for how much they help him. He’s also endeared himself to them by being a great teammate in his own right, celebrating hard on the bench even when he’s not playing, and doing things like supporting Davis at the launch of his signature Ruffles chip on Tuesday night (no, I’m not kidding, that’s a real sentence):
Support you friends the way Quinn Cook supports Anthony Davis. pic.twitter.com/gelEWWkIwv— Christian Rivas (@RadRivas) January 15, 2020
But he’s right about James, who has by all accounts been an incredible teammate this year, as has been his reputation for most of his career. James organized a preseason trip to Las Vegas that the Lakers have consistently credited in part for their stellar chemistry, he has unique nicknames for all of his teammates, and personalized handshakes with each of them to boot. He’s supported everyone on the team, and for someone like Cook — who James has mentored since Cook was just a D-Leaguer with the Canton Charge — that has to mean a ton, coming from arguably the greatest player of all time.
Whether Cook continues to contribute over the rest of the season or goes back to a sporadic role remains to be seen, but he deserves credit for staying ready, just as James helping to create an atmosphere where everyone has happily accepted their role has to be acknowledged.
Just another day in the new, (so far) drama-free Lakers era.