Cook mak­ing best of his time in NBA

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Con­nor Le­tourneau Con­nor Le­tourneau is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer.

As one of the War­riors’ two play­ers on a two-way con­tract, point guard Quinn Cook nav­i­gates a split ex­is­tence: the seem­ingly con­stant yo-yoing be­tween the NBA’s most loaded team and its Ga­torade League af­fil­i­ate in Santa Cruz.

With Stephen Curry (right thigh con­tu­sion) side­lined for Mon­day night’s game against Or­lando, Cook was back with Golden State to pro­vide back­court depth. He played five min­utes and didn’t score or have an as­sist.

“It’s easy to feel down on your­self for be­ing in the G League,” Cook said af­ter shootaround Mon­day. “I’ve been in the G League, and I’ve had those thoughts. But this is a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion with this two-way deal. I get to be with a team that’s the gold stan­dard of the NBA right now. I get to learn from coaches up here, and im­ple­ment what I’m learn­ing up here and bring it down there.”

Cook, 24, has made the most of his pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Af­ter go­ing un­drafted in 2015 out of Duke, he was named D-League Rookie of the Year. His per-36-minute av­er­ages in 15 NBA games en­ter­ing Mon­day — 15.4 points on 50.7 per­cent shoot­ing and 5.0 as­sists — sug­gest he can play at that level.

How­ever, many front of­fices view him as a three-point spe­cial­ist who strug­gles to de­fend elite guards. Cook signed a train­ing-camp deal over the sum­mer with the Hawks, only to be one of the team’s final pre­sea­son cuts.

“You can drive your­self crazy think­ing why you haven’t found your niche in the league,” Cook said. “I think ev­ery­body’s jour­ney is dif­fer­ent, and my jour­ney is to take it a dif­fer­ent route. I think I can play in the NBA. … But tim­ing is ev­ery­thing. I’m just happy to be here, be­cause they’re giv­ing me an op­por­tu­nity.”

The War­riors signed Cook for in­sur­ance be­hind Curry and Shaun Liv­ingston .Asa two-way player, Cook can spend up to 45 days with Golden State and the rest of the sea­son with Santa Cruz. His $75,000 G League salary is aug­mented by a pro­rated por­tion of the NBA rookie min­i­mum salary — roughly $816,000 this sea­son — for any days he is with the big club.

In his time with Golden State, Cook has im­pressed coaches and team­mates with his pro­fes­sion­al­ism, shoot­ing abil­ity and com­mand of the of­fense. His stints with Santa Cruz, where he is av­er­ag­ing 26 points, 7.4 as­sists and 5.8 re­bounds in five games, have helped his cause in be­com­ing a full-time NBA player.

The prob­lem is that Cook might have a tough time get­ting an ex­tended op­por­tu­nity with Golden State. With Curry and Liv­ingston on long-term con­tracts, Cook wouldn’t fig­ure to be bet­ter than third string within the next sev­eral years. The sil­ver lin­ing: learn­ing from the War­riors’ cast of All-Stars should bet­ter pre­pare him for wher­ever he lands next.

“I went down (to Santa Cruz) to see him play,” said

Kevin Du­rant, who con­sid­ers Cook a close friend. “His con­trol of the game, you can tell he’s got­ten so much bet­ter. Quinn has been a hard worker his whole life, and hope­fully his chance comes here sooner rather than later. I know he’ll be ready for it.”

Added Liv­ingston: “He’s been play­ing amaz­ing. I re­ally do like his game. I re­ally think he’s a long-tenured NBA player, for sure.” Quick trip: Cen­ter Damian Jones was re­called Mon­day from Santa Cruz, which had an off day, to at­tend prac­tice. How­ever, he joined Curry and Jor­dan Bell on the in­ac­tive list for the game against Or­lando.

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