Bosco’s Corner: Omar’s folly: Cook waived by Nuggets

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Just when you think it can’t get much worse, it does.

That had to be what Omar Cook, the rookie point guard out of Christ the King High School via St. John’s University must have been thinking last week when he was waived by the Denver Nuggets.

Cook, it seems, has repeatedly shot himself in the foot since leaving St. John’s after his freshman season with the team in April. The go-to player on a sub-.500 team vowed at the season’s conclusion to return and finish what he started, but a month later he was singing a different tune.

Despite the hordes of NBA scouts, coaches and media warning Cook not to leave, the Fort Greene native couldn’t resist. And for a brief time Cook seemed to be proving the naysayers wrong.

With several strong performances at pre-draft camps, Cook was tabbed as a mid-first round selection, the kind of pick usually reserved for a player who might not be a star immediately, but who had enough talent to eventually make an impact. With that first-round draft status also came a three-year guaranteed contract, something every young kid who ever laced up a pair of Nike’s dreams of.

Surely some friends and family members warned Cook about how fickle NBA teams could be on draft day and that no prognostication meant anything until NBA Commissioner David Stern called your name. But those pleas evidently fell on deaf ears, and Cook announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft and leave SJU behind him.

What happened in June is now well documented. Selection by selection went by and Cook’s name was not called, not until the second round when the Orlando Magic picked him with the 32nd selection overall. It may have been relief that night, to finally hear his name, but Cook’s slide to the second round had led to one bad thing after another.

Cook’ stay with Orlando was only a bit longer that his stay at St. John’s, as he was traded away to Denver later in the evening for a future first-round pick.

At the time I remember thinking that Denver must have thought enough of him to trade away a first-round pick, which meant Cook was all but a lock to make the team and get a contract worthy of a first-round pick. Man, was I wrong.

The rookie started to rumble in July, when Denver signed Avery Johnson to be Nick Van Exel’s primary back-up, leaving Cook in a fight for the third spot with another rookie New York high school product, Kenny Satterfield. The two had competed time and again on the courts of the five boroughs, but now it was for the right to win a paying job in the NBA.

Cook played fairly well at the Rocky Mountain Revue in July, dishing out 6.5 assists and 4.2 points per game, but shot a woeful 20 percent from the field.

And instead of going to training camp Denver after the summer leagues were done, Cook held out until her received a contract and came home to New York.

Satterfield, in the other hand, went to Denver, arriving before training camp opened and reportedly worked his tail off to make a good impression.

Cook’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, then got into a very public verbal sparring session with Nuggets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe that played itself out in the sports pages. Goodwin, sources said, wanted a two-year guaranteed contract, but the Nuggets were only offering a one-year deal.

Cook stayed in New York waiting for the situation to resolve itself while Satterfield impressed out West. By the time Cook signed a one-year deal, Satterfield had all but won the third spot.

“What it came down to was a tight race between him and Satterfield,” Denver coach Dan Issel said in a published report. “Kenny got here early and worked even before training camp started and Omar didn’t get here until about a week after training camp started, and he just never made up that difference.

“I think Omar’s going to be a good point guard in this league,” Issel added. “He does have to improve his shooting so that teams don’t lay off him so much. But I think he can play. It was our determination that Kenny’s going to be better.”

Goodwin, as quoted by the Denver Post, said the Nuggets “Never gave Omar a fair shake, and that’s just not anyone crying. I wanted them to say ‘Omar, work on your game. Omar, do X, Y and Z.’ And that’s not what they did. The coaching staff told Omar he didn’t make the team because of the guarantees to Satterfield.”

After he was waived, rumors began flying that Cook could sign with this team or that, but the bottom line is, so late in the process, he will be behind the eight-ball no matter where he lands. One published report had the Nets showing renewed interest, but until he signs a contract, Cook is out of a job.

When he arrived in Denver, Cook said he wanted to be the best passer the city had seen since John Elway. Right now I’d bet he’d settle for Bubby Brister.

One of my friends may have said it best when he heard of Cook being waived when he said, “The best point guard ever....CUT.”

I cry no tears for Cook. He may have caught a bad deal, but it was of his own making. When he announced his intention to leave the Red Storm, I don’t think anyone would have believed a few months later that St. John’s would be a better team without him. But if Cook’s decision to leave college is anything like the ones he made on the court a year ago, look out for the Johnnies in 2001-2002.

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

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