That unrelenting mindset powered Cook to G-League Rookie of the Year honors, but never bore a 10-day contract. Cook went to camp with the Pelicans in 2016, only to lose out on their final roster spot to the reincarnated Lance Stephenson. Another year in the G-League commenced, this time sparking a call-up with the Mavericks and two consecutive 10-day contracts back with New Orleans. A stable roster spot never emerged, although neither ever considered heading to Europe. “That never came into my head,” Cook says. “I knew I was an NBA player and that I just needed the right opportunity in the right situation.” “He turned down lucrative opportunities overseas to play in the G-League and work toward his NBA dream,” says Cooks’s agent, Jim Tanner.
Is the G League the best competition outside of the NBA? Brandon Jennings: I guess if you’re a young guy and you’re looking to go back into the NBA, it is. Europe is not bad either, though. The Europe game is different. But in terms of outside of the NBA, yes. It’s all NBA rules. It’s the NBA games. In China, they played 2-3 [zones] and box-and-1 [defense] on me. They had 7-foot-3 guys in the lane just standing there not moving. It was tough. It was different. I haven’t had someone play a box-and-1 on me since high school.
Some former NBA players might have too big of an ego to go the G League route. Where did your humility come from? Brandon Jennings: I just feel like I’m a world hooper at this point in my life. I started off in Rome. I did the NBA eight years and then I went to China. China really helped me out a lot because I had a lot of time to myself. I was able to look back at myself at my whole career and what I could’ve done better and also the positive things. Now I’m at a point now at 28, I’m still young. I want to play until I’m 35, and I want to make the best out of every opportunity and let people know I can still score the ball. Don’t get it twisted. I can still put that thing in the hoop.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound guard attributes his versatile skill set to his demanding coaches, among them Obradovic, Pesic, Djordjevic and Vujosevic. They helped usher him from the cadet ranks to the national team and to professional stints in Belgrade and Istanbul (Fenerbahce), and now to the NBA. “Here in U.S., I get it,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “They (NBA coaches) work on individual stuff, how to create your own shot, things like that. In Serbia, it’s just passing, how to set screens, how to roll. We don’t (distinguish between) big guys and small guys. We work on everything because you never know who will grow, who will stay small. Once you turn 18, it’s twice a day. Drill, drill, drill. Sometimes we will go an entire day just passing the ball, not shooting even once. That’s why we have good players.”
While the NFL continues to stage multiple regular-season games each year in London — albeit cutting the number from four to three next season — European basketball fans may have to continue to settle for just one. “We’re considering bringing additional games to Europe,” Silver said ahead of Thursday’s game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers at the O2 Arena. “It’s just the logistical challenges for us are so much greater (than for the NFL). . The demand is there and the interest is there. It’s really more a question of our schedule and whether we can make it work.”