Monday marked just over a month — 32 days — since Tyler Cook signed his first of two two-way contracts with the Detroit Pistons. Within that span, he’s endeared himself to the coaching staff, front office and his teammates with his energy and hustle.
Monday also marked a new milestone for the 6-foot-8 power forward — his first NBA start. The Pistons were shorthanded against the Cleveland Cavaliers, without seven players available, including Jerami Grant and Sekou Doumbouya. Cook answered his assignment with 12 points and three rebounds to help the Pistons defeat the Cavaliers, 109-105.
Cook’s had an extended path to the NBA, playing for four different NBA franchises and three G League teams after going undrafted in 2019. But the former Iowa standout is carving out a role in Detroit.
“It meant a ton, to be honest with you,” Cook said of his first NBA start. “It’s been a long journey for me. Still going. To have a team and a front office and GM that believes in me, a coaching staff that believes in me too, and all of my teammates, it means a lot for them to give me the nod tonight. Started the game off being shorthanded. I don’t take that for granted. I’m glad I got that opportunity and I’m glad it resulted in a win for us.”
All six of Cook’s field goals on Monday were dunks. Cook plays to his strengths, and his gift on offense is applying steady pressure on the rim as a runner, cutter and lob threat. According to NBA Stats, 41 of his 53 shot attempts this season were taken within the restricted area. He’s converted those shots at a 65.9% clip. His remaining 12 shots were also taken in the paint.
He also loves dunking. He has 17 this season, 54.8% of his 31 made baskets.
“Just playing to my strengths, honestly,” Cook said. “Whenever I see a window or opportunity to cut to the rim, I see an opening I’m going to take it.
“I just try to do what I do, play hard, and that’s something that doesn’t take a lot of time to get used to. You’re on a new team, just trying to get to the rim, get easy baskets and play defense. That’s what I’ve been focusing on.”
Adjusting to a new team is tough, particularly when you do so with less than half of the season remaining. Injuries, as well as a general focus on developing talent this season, has opened the door for Cook. Head coach Dwane Casey has praised Cook’s work ethic and ability to learn quickly. It’s paying off for him.
“It’s about opportunity,” Casey said. “I tell guys all the time, you’re being watched by us and 29 other teams. What you do is your resume out there on the floor. Every minute you have is your resume. And Tyler Cook is taking advantage of it. A lot of our guys are taking advantage of it. Nothing in this league is guaranteed. Nobody owes anybody anything, and Tyler is making the best of it”.
Casey compared Cook’s approach to that of Isaiah Stewart, another big man who has impressed with his energy. The rookie, who surprised some analysts when he was picked 16th overall in last year’s draft, recorded his third-straight double-double on Monday with 18 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
“I love guys like that,” Casey said. “Hungry guys. Just like Isaiah Stewart. A lot of teams passed over him in the draft, but I love it. He’s hungry. He has his PHD: Poor, Hungry and Driven. I love it. That kid, he uses everything, every ounce he has, as does Tyler. We got a bunch of guys like that, Troy’s done a heck of a job of bringing in guys like that, and it fits the city of Detroit. That’s what I love about it.”
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