Quinn Cook has had a pretty wild last calendar year, even by 2020 standards. On Nov. 19, the team he grew up rooting for cut him, nearly a month and a year after he stood in the Lakers’ locker room following his preseason debut telling me about how putting on the purple and gold for the first time was “a dream come true” for him. In between, he joined the world in mourning Kobe Bryant — the player he grew up idolizing — and went to the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida as the Lakers won a championship during a year unlike any other.
But while it’s been a rollercoaster, you’re not going to hear Cook complaining anytime soon. For one, that doesn’t seem to be a quality that’s in the perpetually affable point guard’s repertoire. For another, the Lakers re-signed Cook a few weeks after waiving him, and while it wasn’t an easy process, he says the team made it a lot easier than it could have been.
“It’s been a long couple weeks, obviously. I got to celebrate a little bit, but I also had in the back of my mind that business has to take place,” Cook said. “The Lakers were very transparent with me. Very honest. They had to restructure the roster, and I had a nice contract last year, so I understood what could happen.”
But following his first training camp practice back with the team on Thursday — after he cleared the league’s coronavirus protocols — Cook told reporters on Zoom that it was the way the Lakers handled what happened that stood out to him.
“I’ve been waived multiple times, they handled everything the most professional way, and they really cared for me. Really (looked out for) my best interests,” Cook said. “Free agency, there was probably a week, week and a half where I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I ended up landing back on my feet here, and it was the best feeling ever.”
The previous sentiment is something a few players have expressed about how Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has handled things since he took over, most recently Danny Green, who also praised the team for how they made sure he wasn’t “blindsided” by his exit this season. For Cook, it sounds like the process was even more involved than just Pelinka giving him a heads up that he might be on the way out, though.
Teammates LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Jared Dudley were in contact with Cook the whole time he was a free agent, with James even publicly advocating for him to return. Then, as Cook was in the process of being recruited back after clearing waivers, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and general manager Rob Pelinka reached out to let him know how they saw his role and why they wanted him back.
“That meant a lot to me for them to bring me back. It made me feel special,” Cook said. “I know how much Coach believes in me, I know how much Rob and Jeanie (Buss) believe in me, so that meant a lot. I want to make them proud by being ready. I want to contribute. I want to contribute to my favorite team being a championship team. I think I can do it, and we’ll see how it goes this year.”
Last year, Cook’s role was smaller. More break glass in case of emergency. He only played in 44 regular season games, averaging 11.5 minutes per appearance. In the playoffs, he only played 24 total minutes over six appearances. Still, even though his role might be more of the same this year, he had no hesitancy to come back, because he understands his position in the league and on this team.
“I’m secure enough in myself to know that I can play. My teammates know I can play. What I’ve done in the opportunities I’ve had in my career, whether it be hitting big shots in the finals, whether it’s Steph being out and I have to score 20 or more points per game, I know what I can do,” Cook said.
“But on this team, we have so many guys who can score the ball. We have so many guys who can handle the ball. So I try to find my niche in being a great teammate, trying to be the best catch-and-shoot guy that I can be. And when guys can’t go or have to sit out, I can still go get a basket and make plays,” Cook continued. “So I’m confident in myself, I know what I can do. I showed it in spurts last year, but I had to sit behind two Hall of Famers in ‘Bron and (Rajon) Rondo. So I got to learn as much as possible. Some players might want to leave, some players might want to feel bad because they’re not on the court, but for me, I get a chance to learn, and any time I get an opportunity, I’ll take full advantage of it.
“My motto is to always buy into winning, to be the best teammate and the most professional guy I can be, and when my number is called, I know I can play.”
But whether Cook plays or not, he’s excited to be back.
“It was one of the best days ever, man. Just to be back with my guys man, to have an official practice here... It was just a great feeling to be back,” Cook said. “To put this jersey back on, to be back with this staff and organization man, it’s a beautiful feeling.”