OAKLAND — It wasn’t long ago that Quinn Cook, paid to score, could not buy a bucket.
The guard often settled for a seat on the bench to watch the shooting pyrotechnics of Warriors teammates Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
Yet on Sunday, in the second quarter of a 137-90 rout of the Charlotte Hornets, the roles were reversed. It was Curry, Durant and Thompson taking turns watching from the bench as Cook lit up the scoreboard.
It was impressive enough to earn the Duke product a few extra minutes.
“On a night like tonight, when he was about to come out in the middle of the second quarter and he had the hot hand, it was a group effort to switch the rotation up to help him keep playing,” Curry said. “And he took advantage of it.
“That’s who we are as a team.”
Cook was paired at guard with Thompson at the start of the quarter, and stayed in the game after Durant re-entered three minutes into the quarter. When Curry came in 6:09 before the half, it was not to replace Cook — as usually is the case — but Thompson.
Cook torched the Hornets, scoring 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including 3 of 3 from deep, in less than nine minutes before being replaced by Thompson with 3:18 remaining in the half.
Coach Steve Kerr and his staff should not have needed much persuasion to keep Cook in the game. They know, after all, that when the NBA postseason begins in 12 days, they’re going to need somebody who can come off the bench and score.
They also know that, given his history, Cook is the lead candidate.
He owns the only 50-40-90 season in G League history. He shot 44.2 percent from deep in 33 NBA games last season, finishing ahead of Thompson (44.0 percent), Curry (42.3) and Durant (41.9).
Yet, for much of this season, Cook’s shot has been arrhythmic, if not invisible, due to long stretches on the bench. Between late January and mid-February, he went two weeks without making a 3 pointer.
After going 8 of 29 beyond the arc in January, Cook dropped off to 2 of 16 in February. It was the worst slump of his brief NBA career.
“It’s a little trickier with Quinn than it is for Steph and Klay because when you don’t play a lot of minutes, each shot takes on more significance,” Kerr said. “He went through a stretch this year where he wasn’t playing much, and I told him I used to play that role many times, many seasons. You go 1 of 3 or 0 of 2 for five straight games, and you’re like, ‘Man, I’m in a horrible slump.’
“That’s like one quarter for Steph or Klay. But when you don’t play a whole lot, each shot takes on too much meaning.”
To his credit, Cook never stopped working. He's always on time, and often staying late, sometimes getting up shots after games.
It’s paying off. He’s 10 of 12 from deep over his last four games, and his percentage for March was an even 50, as he made exactly half of his 40 attempts.
Cook said he simply wanted to stay ready and stay positive. He also cited his interaction with Kerr, who indeed was a bench bomber for most of his career, as being important.
“He’s definitely been there for me,” Cook said. “After games, he’ll shoot me a text or give me a call. He’s a players-first kind of coach. ...
“He’s always believed in me and gave me that confidence. He’s always allowed me to play my game, and he’s always in my ear because, obviously, I want to have a career like he did, known as a winner and playing a lot of years in this league.”
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Kerr, as well as Curry and Durant and Thompson, would like to have more deep-shooting production from the bench in the postseason. The Warriors’ bench is 29th in scoring (29.2 points per game) and 29th in 3-point makes (2.8 per game). Some of that is offset by accuracy, as the bench is No. 1 in field-goal percentage (49.7) and No. 2 from deep (36.9).
So Cook’s revival is timely. His minute levels will rise and fall, but he’ll play if his shots are dropping. They’re dropping now, at exactly the right time.