Last week, the Brooklyn Nets signed big man Tyler Cook, who was recently dominating in the G League at the bubble campus in Florida.
During his seven games in the bubble, Cook was averaging 20.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting 59.0 percent from the floor. His assist percentage (23.5 percent) ranked as the best among all G League players who are 6-foot-7 or taller and who played in more than three games in the bubble.
Cook recorded 31 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists against the Long Island Nets in the bubble before signing an NBA deal with Brooklyn. The 23-year-old recently caught up with HoopsHype to speak about the move.
Please note that this transcription was very minorly edited for clarity.
Thank you so much for your time today, Tyler. How would you describe your reaction when you found out that the Brooklyn Nets would be offering you an NBA contract?
TC: I had an interview with [general manager] Sean Marks and [assistant general manager] Jeff Peterson about a week before I knew I would be going to Brooklyn. I spoke to them a few years back when I had a draft workout with the Nets but that was the only time I had met them before.
Anyway, we had a late game, tipoff at 7:30 pm, in the G League bubble. I was just grabbing food and walking back to my room when my agent called me and he said: “Pack your bags. You’re going to Brooklyn tomorrow.”
It hit me quick. I was obviously very excited to get the call in general but to know that it would be with this team, with a chance to do something special with the guys on this team, was even more exciting. I’m super excited to be a part of this group for however long it may be.
You’ll be joining future Hall-of-Famers and the coaching staff is not too shabby, either. In what ways are you most looking forward to playing alongside them?
TC: It goes without saying that being around the guys that you just mentioned, both players and coaches, will help me in every way imaginable. Just being around the guys that have the kind of knowledge that they do will help me tremendously as a player and as someone who thinks the game at a high level as well. I’ve already been blessed enough to have conversations with all of these guys. I’m enjoying the process of learning how they get ready for games.
But, yeah, I’m a guy who enjoys doing the little things. I know this team isn’t where they want to be defensively right now so I’m going to take it on myself that takes it upon himself to go in every night and try to defend hard every time I step on the floor no matter how many minutes I get. I’m someone who can come in and rebound. I’m a good guy in the locker room. We already have guys who can score the ball and they will continue to do the heavy lifting in that regard. I just want to come in and do the little things and bring value to this team in any way that I can.
Defense and rebounding have historically been two of your biggest strengths. From a deeper basketball perspective, what role do you see yourself playing in Brooklyn?
TC: It’s funny you ask that because it was a hectic situation coming into shootaround. I didn’t know any of the players. I wasn’t familiar with many of the guys. I had to learn how they like to play and what they like to do on the court. Basically, all I knew was to come in and play hard on the defensive end. That will be how I approach everything moving forward. Obviously, I’m going to learn and pick up on things for the offense as I get more familiar with the players.
But in terms of my role, it’s going to be a lockdown defender. I’m going to rebound and I’m going to help get guys open by setting good screens and rolling hard to the basket and finishing when I do get the ball in a pick-and-roll situation or a dump-down pass or whatever it may be. I’m going to do what I always do, naturally, and be the guy that does the small things to help this group and do what it takes to become someones the players and coaches value.
One thing may not realize is that you have become a really good playmaker for your position. How do you think that will manifest itself especially now that you are going to be on the same team as so many elite scorers?
TC: I actually learned a lot of that last year during my time with the Denver Nuggets while I was spending time around Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant. They helped me a ton and made me “think the game” better and play it better, too. I was able to pick up on some of the things I saw from them and really learn the game more than ever. I just got better at reading and reacting in different situations, finding open guys, figuring out different ways to get guys open on the floor.
I was a good playmaker in the G League because I learned where my teammates liked getting the ball. Does this player like coming off a dribble handoff? Does he like to get hit early? I want to learn everything so that I can get them the best shots and the shots that they like. That is why my assist percentage is high. Moving forward, I’ll bring that same element to my team as it is needed.
You mentioned your time with Denver. You were able to get on the floor during the 2020 NBA playoffs. You were also around a contender every day and saw what it takes to make the Western Conference Finals. How will that experience help as you join a team vying to win a title?
Aug 6, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Tyler Cook #25 of the Denver Nuggets reacts to their 125-115 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 06, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
TC: It was a blessing to be around that group during that time. It was my rookie year so I didn’t know anything else yet. But coming into that and seeing the process and seeing everything that it took to get to that point was incredible. It really helped to get that experience under my belt.
I was able to see the amount of focus and intensity and the attention to detail that it took to get to that far in the playoffs. That will serve me well. A lot of these guys on this team have playoff and championship experience. Even as a young guy, having that experience under my belt will help me and help us mesh together as I go forward with this team. Hopefully, I can use that to maybe help other guys as well.
You went from playing in the G League bubble to playing for Brooklyn in such a rapid period of time. Have you been able to reflect on that transition?
TC: Man, it’s been crazy, to say the least. Tuesday, I was playing in the G League. Thursday, I was with the Nets. And they’re favorites to win the championship! [Laughs] I wasn’t really able to think about it until after the first game.
It was an amazing feeling. That’s what you work for nonstop. So getting the chance and opportunity to be a part of this group for however long that will be is special. I don’t take it for granted. I just want to be the best player I can be for this team.
You’ve had a chance to play at the bubble location in the NBA and in the G League. What were some of your observations from that experience?
TC: Yeah, it was my second time, so it was a little more smooth. I knew what to expect. I had a feeling of what it would be like. Off the court, it is definitely different. You don’t have the freedom that you are used to, being able to move around and stuff like that. Honestly, it made playing ball easier. You don’t have any travel. You’re going to the same gym every day. You know the court. You know the arena. It made me more comfortable once I knew the environment.
But it takes a long time to get used to it. A lot of my teammates struggled with finding their way. Life is about adapting, though. So once you get down there, you have to do what you can to make it as good as possible.
While you were down there, you dropped 31-10-9 against (of all teams) Brooklyn’s G League affiliate. How big of a role do you think that played in getting on their radar to where the organization made the decision to get you an NBA deal?
TC: [Laughs] I think that’s a question for our general manager. Obviously, at that point, I didn’t know that Brooklyn was interested. I was just trying to play the best game that I could play. I don’t know how much that game stuck out in their minds but I do think the consistency that I was playing with down there definitely helped. I had a pretty good run down there. Even though our team wasn’t winning, I was still trying to be the best player on the floor every time I stepped out there. I think that effort would stick out more than just one performance.
You had a chance to play against the inaugural G League Ignite squad. What were your thoughts on that new program?
TC: I think those kids have a chance to be really special. They’re new to the NBA-style of basketball so there are some things they have to pick up on, which is to be expected when they’re eighteen or nineteen years old. They’re really being thrown in the fire. But their talent and their intangibles are beyond their years. Those guys are ahead of their time with their skills and their IQ. They’ve pulled their talent together to be a good team as well.
Being in that situation, you think they would want to come out and show out on their own and make sure their own numbers are straight. But they’re more focused on making their team good making sure their personal statistics are good. That goes a long way to speak for their character as young men and basketball players. When you go to the next level, you aren’t going to be the main guy right away. Going above and beyond to help your team doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but it helps you in the end.
I think that havings vets on the team like Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson really helps them out even more. I’m excited for whatever is in their future. I’m looking forward to just seeing where they’re going and what kind of players they end up becoming at the next level.
We have March Madness coming up. Your alum, Iowa, is a fascinating team. Plus, you played alongside one of college basketball’s top stars, Luka Garza, for a couple of years. What do you see for the Hawkeyes in this tournament?
Iowa forward Tyler Cook (25) talks with Iowa forward Luka Garza (55) during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men’s basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen
TC: I’ve never met a guy who works harder than Luka Garza in my life, and that is my college and my pro career. That kid is a grinder. Like, I remember his first day on campus, I walked in the gym. Now, I was always the first one in the gym. I would always set my classes so that I was done early so I could get my work in early. He beat me there his first week. That’s indicative of the guy that he is. Obviously his skill level, and how much better he’s gotten since his freshman year, is incredible. He is an All-American. He’s the all-time leading scorer at our school.
On top of that, he’s an even better person. I’m happy for him and I’m happy for the success that he has had so far. I think he’s a great leader, too. Once this team gets to the tournament, they’ll for sure be in their best shape and best form. I’m taking my guys over anybody! I’m taking any and all bets!
I remember watching your team play here at Madison Square Garden against my alma mater Oregon. Iowa was unranked and the Ducks were Top 15. But you led every second of the game and got the win.
TC: That seems like yesterday, man. That’s crazy. It’s been so fun seeing those guys grow. I’m really just now thinking about it for the first time now and how different they are from that game compared to the players that they are now. It’s incredible to see their growth. I spoke to Luka last night. I spoke to Joe Wieskamp recently as well. I said that I’m just glad to be a part of their journey and their process and their growth. They’ll have success at the next level.
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