OKC's Cook driven to be more than perimeter threat
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
In an under-the-radar move the day before the NBA draft last month, the Heat dealt Cook and a first-round draft pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal that helped pave the way for the All-Star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to unite on South Beach.
''It's funny because nowadays people make jokes about how I got traded,'' Cook said Tuesday in his first public appearance in Oklahoma City. ''At least I know I got traded for LeBron James.''
Of course, Cook wasn't swapped straight-up for King James. The Heat traded him away in a series of salary-slashing moves to make room for the summer's big free-agent splash.
In the process, they sent the 23-year-old Cook - the winner of the 3-Point Shootout during All-Star Weekend in 2009 - to a roster filled with his peers, where he hopes he can spread his wings more than he did in Miami.
''You have a guy in Dwyane Wade who had a lot of attention and the ball was in his hand most of the time. But here, I'm going to get the opportunity to expand my game,'' Cook said during a break from his visit to a basketball camp at a Boys and Girls Club.
''It's important because I'm more than just a shooter, and I've always been. It's just important for me to work on those things and just to get back in the habit of doing the things I was doing.''
Cook shot 42 percent from 3-point range in his only college season at Ohio State, where he was a key reserve on the Buckeyes team that lost to Florida in the 2007 national championship game. During that season, he still took about three out of every five shots from inside the arc.
But once Cook got to the NBA, his game became more focused on the 3-pointer. He took more shots from behind the arc than inside of it in each of his first two seasons. While he connected at a 39 percent clip two seasons ago, he took the 13th-most 3-pointers in the league while playing 24.4 minutes per game.
Last season, his third year in the NBA, he took one more shot from inside the arc than he did from 3-point range while playing in only 45 games.
''It's not that I can't go off the dribble. I've just been settling a lot for the jump shot,'' Cook said. ''So, it's just important to get back to my rituals of what I've been doing.''
Cook hopes that getting back in the habit of driving with the ball will make him tougher to defend and, in turn, create more open looks from long range.
''I know I'm a standstill shooter and can knock down that. It's more about me expanding my game and getting to the basket,'' Cook said. ''I can shoot free throws real good, so it'll give me a chance to get to the basket and draw fouls.''
It's unclear how Cook could fit into the Thunder's nine-man rotation that had starter Thabo Sefolosha and rookie James Harden getting almost all the minutes at shooting guard last season. Coach Scott Brooks has said he doesn't expect to play more than nine or 10 players on a regular basis.
Even if Cook's main contribution is as a perimeter threat, it would be a boost for the Thunder. Oklahoma City ranked 25th in the league in 3-point shooting last season, making only 34 percent, and didn't have a reliable 3-point shooter to turn to when needing a late-game comeback.
Cook has plenty of time to figure that out, though. During this trip to his new home, Cook plans to move into his new house near the Thunder practice facility and continue building a rapport with his teammates, some of whom he's already worked out with during summer league.
''The biggest adjustment for me is the team chemistry,'' Cook said. ''You've got a lot of guys that's been playing together for the last couple years, and it's just important for me to play the role that's given to me on this team, not to come in and try to do too much. Just do enough to be a part of the team.''