How Tyler Cook is endearing himself to Dwane Casey and the Detroit Pistons

Detroit Free Press

Tyler Cook’s past month is a good illustration of just how unpredictable NBA life can be for an undrafted player.

He was playing in the G League bubble with the Iowa Wolves before the Brooklyn Nets called him up for a 10-day contract on Feb. 24. Three weeks later, he signed another 10-day deal with the Detroit Pistons. Since going undrafted in 2019, he has played for four different NBA franchises and three G League teams.

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The past month has been a challenge, but it has been a motivator for him to make the most of his latest opportunity, he said Tuesday. But Cook’s daily approach has endeared him to Detroit’s coaching staff, and the Pistons will soon have to decide if this stop will be a lasting one for the athletic big man.

“It’s definitely a challenge but I’ve been trying to focus on being myself and making the best impact I can of whatever opportunity I get,” Cook said. “That’s kept me focused on keeping the main thing the main thing and just going out and playing ball every night.”

The word on Cook, a former top-100 recruit and standout with the Iowa Hawkeyes, has been positive since his first 10-day deal was announced by the team on March 18. He has appeared in six games and played 67 minutes, during which he has grabbed 21 rebounds and scored 16 points. He’s bouncy and athletic near the rim and has finished two one-handed alley-oop dunks.

It’s a limited sample size on which to judge a player — particularly when that player has had little time to learn the scheme and teammates. Casey said Tuesday that based on all of the 10-day players he’s coached in the past, it takes them 10 days just to fully pick up on what the team is doing.

Cook is acclimating himself quickly, though. He’s talkative on defense to Casey’s delight, and he brings energy into the game whenever he checks in.

“I don’t know what we can do with him contractually but I’d love to keep him around as much as you can,” Casey said. “He’s one of those guys that you want to keep in your program because again, he gives you everything. He can play four or five, he’s smart, he picks up stuff quick, he’s physical, he’s athletic, he’s still working on his shooting piece, but everything else he’s bringing it to the table and then some. Defensively, he’s versatile. The quicker you can pick up stuff, and to his credit he’s picked up everything we’ve done and it’s one reason why he’s ahead of the curve and can contribute. You feel comfortable putting him in the game and playing him.”

When Cook arrived in Detroit, Casey said the coaching staff gave him “as much as he can stand” as far as learning plays and terminology. He has been absorbing it and is familiar with much of the playbook now. Casey has prioritized getting him into games to maximize the impact he can make in such a short amount of time. Cook has also gotten assistance from Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, both with the Denver Nuggets during the 2019-20 season. Cook signed a two-way contract with the Nuggets after going undrafted.

The Pistons’ message to Cook has been to be physical, compete and play hard on defense. So far, he has lived up to it.

“He communicates, he talks in transition, he’s physical and a wonderful man,” Casey said. “He’s a guy you want in your program because he sets the tone. When you go out there against him and (Hamidou) Diallo, you know you got a street fight on your hands with those two guys on the floor and they set the tone for everybody else defensively. You need a couple of those guys that really can just lock down and guard in those situations.

“I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m high on Tyler Cook.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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