Life isn’t easy for fringe NBA players. Those who are good enough to play basketball professionally, but not good enough to have the comfort of a long-term NBA contract face the struggles of uncertainty, volatility, and never knowing what their next step is.
Such is the journey for Quinn Cook, the Golden State Warriors point guard who has been getting starter’s minutes with Stephen Curry sidelined. While Cook’s recent performance has solidified him as an NBA player - he’ll surely receive a contract this offseason - he’s still toeing the line between the NBA and a lesser league for the remainder of the season.
For The Athletic, Ryan Lindsay spoke with Cook about the challenges of bouncing between the NBA’s Warriors, and the G-League’s Santa Cruz Warriors, often with little time to prepare. It’s an eye-opening look into life for a player on the precipice of the league.
Last month, he was starting in Prescott Valley, Arizona, alongside Terrence Jones, Michael Gbinije and Avry Holmes. Sunday, he was starting in Minnesota alongside Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
Next month? He could very well be starting a search for a new team.
And because that’s Cook’s reality, he keeps a bag packed. Sweatsuits, shirts, underwear, socks, laptop and a few ChapSticks — that’s about it. And regardless of when or where he’s going, he makes his way to where the Warriors are with a driver, who handles the rest.
Cook usually spends the hour-and-change drive between Santa Cruz and Oakland on FaceTime, talking with friends or family. He talks to Patrick McCaw often, and sometimes, if it’s not too early, he’ll strike up a convo with the drivers. He’s gotten to know them after all the trips back and forth.
The article is sprinkled with fascinating anecdotes, about both Cook, and the team. Cook says he’s like to start reading more, because many of his Warriors teammates do, and “Sometimes, I get lost in the conversation because I don’t really keep up with what’s going on, so I just want to keep learning.”
He adds that coach Steve Kerr regularly texts him, and that after games he often crashes at Kevin Durant’s house. Cook admitted that the Warriors feel “like a big family”, which is good, because he’ll be here awhile: Cook’s 45 days of service won’t run out this year, so he’ll be with the Warriors until the end of the season.
Big school, bigger dreams
Cook came from one of the top basketball schools in the country: Duke. And while many of the players who walked the halls at Duke have established themselves as solid NBA players, Cook is still searching for that.
It’s an interesting dichotomy for any player who came from a basketball powerhouse. The Ringer’s Paulo Uggetti recently wrote about players from the University of Kentucky who have struggled to make it in the NBA.
The journey for a group of teenagers who were on top of the world, and then suddenly struggling to make their NBA dreams a reality, while their teammates earned All-Star nods, is both heartbreaking, and fascinating.
The Warriors haven’t had a player from Kentucky in many years, but they do have Cook, and until recently they employed James Michael McAdoo, another fringe NBA player from a top basketball school (North Carolina).
It’s worth reading the article to see what players like Cook and McAdoo have to deal with.
Speaking of college basketball...
It’s March! That means it’s time for one of the best traditions in all of sports: March Madness. Before you go filling out a bracket in the Golden State of Mind pool, Erik Spanberg of The Athletic took a trip down memory lane, and looked back on Curry’s magical run with Davidson, which is a reminder as to why March Madness is so special.
Ten years on, the Davidson run remains indelible in the minds of the coaches, players and broadcasters who lived it — and in the annals of March Madness. Upsets and unexpected runs to the Sweet 16 and beyond resonate as much, or more, as the title game triumphs of blue-blood programs.
Like most NBA teams, the Warriors are well represented in the bracket.
David West’s team from Xavier is a 1-seed, Cook’s Duke team is a 2-seed, Draymond Green’s alma mater, Michigan State, is a 3-seed, Andre Iguodala’s Arizona team is a 4-seed, JaVale McGee’s team from Nevada is a 7-seed, Kevin Durant’s school, Texas, is a 10-seed, Kevon Looney’s UCLA squad is the play-in game for an 11-seed, and Curry’s Davidson is a 12-seed.
Chances are there are a lot of bets going down in the Dubs’ locker room.
The Warriors’ odds are slipping
According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI), the Warriors are no longer the favorite to win it all.
Latest calculations have the Rockets with the best chance to win the NBA Finals. pic.twitter.com/RluunCoPMS— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 13, 2018
Of course, BPI is purely based on calculations, so it doesn’t take into account the way the Warriors are capable of playing should they turn it up a gear in the postseason. I think most analysts would agree that Golden State is still the team to beat, even if the math based on this season says otherwise.
Either way, the Western Conference Finals are going to be AMAZING.
Mannix and Slater talk Warriors
Anthony Slater is one of the top Warriors’ writers, and always has something interesting and insightful to say about the Dubs. And Chris Mannix is one of the best basketball writers in the league. So when they get together for a pod about the Warriors? It’s a must-listen.