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Cook’s still waiting for contract offer from Denver

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It may just have been a case of negotiating through the media, but Denver Nuggets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe gave the impression that his team is less than anxious to sign second round draft pick Omar Cook.

As of Monday, no contract has been offered to Cook by the Nuggets.

Speaking with the Denver Post last week, Vandeweghe said that even if Cook does secure a contract, the former St. John’s and Christ the King point guard will be no higher than third on their depth chart, behind Nick Van Exel and Avery Johnson.

“We have a top-five point guard [Van Exel], and we just signed a backup point guard [Johnson] for a lot of money and years,” Vandeweghe told the Post. “There may be no place to play. You have to be realistic about the roster situation. It may not be good to sit and watch for a year.

“I’ve been a player. I understand the anxiety,” the GM added. “But we have to make a good decision.”

Cook could end up catching on with the team, signing a one- or two-year contract just above the league minimum of $316,969, but if the 19-year-old out of Fort Greene declines such an offer, he limits his options for the upcoming season.

Cook could play with the NBA’s new developmental league without a contract, but would still be the property of Denver and unable to catch on with another team until the next draft. He could also try his luck overseas.

In his interview with the Post, Vandeweghe, who took over as Nuggets GM after Cook was acquired, also said that he has high hopes for Cook, but that does not know whether Denver is the right place for him.

“He has a chance to be a great NBA player, but he has to play,” Vandeweghe is quoted as saying. “He can’t sit to do that.”

According to the NBA Players Association, a team that drafts a player in the second round must tender that player a contract by Sept. 5 in order to retain that player’s rights for the year. The player then has 30 days to accept the offer.

But if no contract if offered by the team, the player becomes a free agent.

All contracts become fully guaranteed on or about Jan. 10, a players association spokesman said, regardless of draft position.

“We’ll try to work it out as soon as we can,” Vandeweghe told the Post. “I am not interested in hanging him up.”

Cook could not be reached from comment.

Cook’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, told the Post that he would prefer his client sign with the Nuggets, regardless of his position on the team.

“Whatever it takes for him to learn the system and play in the NBA, he is willing to do,” Goodwin is quoted as saying. “You don’t give a kid a one-year deal in that situation. You show the kid some promise and an opportunity to play. These are decisions the Denver Nuggets should have made prior to drafting and trading a [conditional] first-round pick for Omar Cook.

“The kid is upset,” Goodwin added. “He doesn’t understand. Everything he has heard from the Denver Nuggets is that they supported him and wanted him to come there. [This situation] is totally contradicting to what has been said.”

Cook’s decision to leave St. John’s after his freshman year was met with widespread criticism, despite the fact that the 6-foot-1 point guard was second in the nation in assists. St. John’s finished with a record of 14-15 and out of postseason play and despite coach Mike Jarvis’ pleas for him to stay in school, Cook could not be deterred from his pursuit of an NBA career.

Since he was selected in the second round with the 32nd pick overall by Orlando and subsequently traded to Denver for a conditional first-round pick, Cook played at the Rocky Mountain Revue, a preseason exhibition tournament held last month in Salt Lake City. He averaged 6.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game, but scored just 4.2 points.

Cook’s selection in the second round also meant that he missed out of the guaranteed three-year contract that goes along with being a first-round selection, something that seemed a lock in the weeks leading up to the draft following some stellar workout sessions with teams.

In many ways, Cook’s current situation mirrors that of a player he has followed all of his career — Portland’s Erick Barkley. Barkley, like Cook, hails from Fort Greene and played at both Christ the King and St. John’s before leaving for the NBA as an underclassman. Barkley was drafted late in the first round by the TrailBlazers, earning the guaranteed three-year deal, but ended up sitting out most of his rookie season behind a trio of point guards, Greg Anthony, Rod Strickland and Damon Stoudamire.

But Barkley’s hard work and patience have seemingly paid off after just one season. Portland has moved both Strickland and Anthony, leaving Barkley as the No. 1 back-up.

Talks between Goodwin and the Nuggets continue, while Cook continues to keep a low profile, something he has done since his decision to enter the NBA draft. Goodwin said that Cook will not go to Denver until his contract situation has been hammered out.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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