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Quinn Cook Is Ready to Restart the NBA Season—However It May Look

This week, the Lakers guard spoke about getting back into the facility, the new playoff seeding styles the league is considering, staying in touch with teammates during quarantine, and more

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Basketball has always been Quinn Cook’s preferred form of therapy. So it’s no surprise that when the Lakers’ facility opened back up on May 16, he returned almost immediately. Cook, who was without a basketball hoop for a month and who watches game tape not just for work, but for fun, has relished getting back into a routine: Wake up. Make and eat breakfast. Hoop. Go home and play video games. Sleep and repeat.

I caught up with Cook this week to talk about what protocol is for entering the Lakers’ facility, which potential NBA restart format he prefers, and more.

What’s it been like going back to the facility?

Oh, it was good. It’s a big step for us. I missed going back in there, always having access to it. You kind of take it for granted, but it’s just a special place. Getting back in there with my coaches and some of my teammates has been great, as well.

What’s the procedure like to get into the facility?

We get our temperature taken as soon as we pull up, by a nurse. When we get there, we have to leave our outside shoes outside, and we have some flip-flops waiting for us at the door. We have to wear a mask walking in the building, and when we’re not working out in the weight room or doing basketball stuff on the court, we have to wear a mask. Everybody—trainers and coaches—they all have masks and gloves on. Our coaches actually work us out in masks and gloves.

I think Cody Zeller mentioned that when you guys were still allowed in the facility back in March, they were cleaning the weight rooms after every rep or every set. Is that happening now?

Yeah, after we do anything, everything is being cleaned. Literally taking every precaution to make everyone feel safe. Our coaches are still pushing us in our workouts, but also still cleaning. Every time a new group comes in, a group of cleaners comes and cleans up everything. It’s a different time, but obviously we want to be as safe as possible.

Was there a moment when you thought the NBA wouldn’t finish the season?

I never felt that we weren’t going to have the season. I’ve always had the mind-set of, I don’t know when, but if it comes back, we got to be ready. I got to be ready. Because mentally, it’s hard to make that switch. If you tell yourself every day, “Yeah, season’s not coming back, season’s not coming back,” and then it comes back, make sure you’re really there, prepared. For me, I want to stay mentally in the fight this entire time. But I think the big step has been opening up facilities and guys coming out saying they want to play.

How did you stay mentally and physically ready, even while you couldn’t go to the facility?

I was just working out in the house, taking care of my body, still eating right. I was without a court for about a month, so that was tough, but still kind of just working out and trying to just stay mentally locked in, stay in touch with my teammates, talking to them every day and us reminding each other what the goal is. I just think this was a unique time for everyone, but we’re still continuing to get through it together.

You were without a court for a month?

Yeah, I left L.A. and went to Atlanta, where I live in the summers. I have a trainer there and I was getting some work in there … but at the same time, just trying to take every precaution possible and be smart. I’m now back in L.A. with our facility open. That’s been the best thing for me.

When you could work out only at home, what did you do to stay in shape?

[Laughs.] Man, I was doing push-ups all day, every day, sit-ups. I have a pretty big condo here in L.A., so I was running. I have hardwood floors, so I was running sprints and stuff, just trying to keep it fresh. A lot of jump rope. Just a lot of the basic stuff we grew up on.

You mentioned making a point to stay in touch with your teammates. Has the mood shifted among the players now that you’re gearing up to play again?

Yeah. I think it’s always been pretty light. Rob Pelinka, Kurt Rambis, Jeanie Buss, Coach [Frank] Vogel, our entire coaching staff has done an incredible job of just keeping us informed. Anything that happens regarding the league and regarding us, we get on a call and we’re informed about everything. Obviously our health and safety is the first concern from the league, and also coming from our organization.

A few different return-to-play plans have been discussed [no conference seeding, the World Cup format, the play-in tournament]. Is there a format you prefer for the playoffs?

I know the league has been trying to switch things up for a while, so I wouldn’t mind seeing a tournament with no seeding. I mean, not no seeding, but no conferences. I saw a bracket like where they have the Western Conference teams mixed with the Eastern Conference teams during the playoffs. That looked pretty cool. Maybe a play-in tournament for the couple of teams who have a chance to make it in—New Orleans, Portland, a couple of those teams, just to make it interesting and switch it up a little bit. I think this is a good time to try something new out.

Are you apprehensive about the possibility of going to Orlando in that bubble/campus environment?

I’m not sure. I’m not sure. Like I keep saying, the league will make this decision on what we need to do, but at the same time, I really don’t understand everything about the virus. I just know for me, I’ll most likely be by myself. I want my family to stay quarantined in what they’re doing. I don’t know what other players will do, but I just know for me, I’ll probably just go by myself and just to be locked in with my teammates. Honestly, it’ll be a tough two months, however long it lasts without your family, but sometimes you just got to sacrifice for something that you really want. For me, it’s just the knowledge part. I don’t really understand much about this virus. I would just rather my family to continue doing what they’re doing back in D.C. and just try to stay safe.

Do you feel like the potential reward is worth the risk that you’re taking on by playing?

Like I said, I don’t believe the league will put us in any situation that will harm us. I would feel pretty confident going. Honestly, I feel pretty safe and happy to be back hooping and being with my guys. My mind would be clear.

How do you feel it’ll be like to play without fans?

I’m not sure. I know a lot of people say we played our pickup games in the summer with no fans and practice with no fans and stuff, but obviously the fans bring an incredible dynamic. It’s going to be different. A team that is the high seed, they lose the home-court advantage aspect, and a lot of players feed off the crowd. But I think for us, we’re all hoopers, we all want to get back to playing ball. It’ll be different, but once our adrenaline kicks in, I think everything will settle in.

Going back to high school, middle school, have you ever played a competitive game without any fans?

Yeah, when I was in the G League, I played a game where, I think it was about 50 people there total. But like I said, your adrenaline kicks in. Obviously you feed off the fans, but once we get up and down a couple of times, we’re just hooping, just as we did as kids. It’d be different, but it’s just basketball at the end of the day, and we just want to go out there and play because we love the game.

LeBron has been pretty active showing his workouts on social media. How do you feel like he’s going to come back?

I know LeBron’s going to come back and not miss a beat. I know how hard he works. I know how disciplined he is. That’s just how he is as a worker. He has to lead by example, so I know he’s working smart, working hard over this break. I know he’s going to set the tone for us early when we all get back together.

There’s been discussion about whether this season deserves some sort of asterisk. How do you think we’ll look back on whoever wins this title?

It’s tougher. Guys were without basketball for a couple months. Guys weren’t able to work out the way they work out for a couple of months. It’s tough to mentally stay in the fight and stay engaged. I don’t believe that it deserves an asterisk. You have to be mentally tough to get through this together with your team, and whoever wins it deserves it.

How do you prepare mentally for going through two, three months living in one place and just focusing on basketball? Can you even prepare for that?

I think everybody does their own thing. Me, I just like watching basketball. I’ve been watching a lot of our old games and stuff, and just seeing how we guarded certain players and guarded certain teams, what we ran and stuff like that. That’s my therapy. That’s my way of just getting all in, just watching us play. I’m obsessed with the game of basketball, so just watching old highlights, watching a lot of stuff, that’s kind of my therapy.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.