Cook shooting for Wizards opening day roster

Cook shooting for Wizards opening day roster
October 23, 2012, 11:30 pm
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Washington Wizards forward Brian Cook (43) talks to guard Shelvin Mack (22) and forward Cartier Martin (20) against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Wizards 99-92.

(Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Brian Cook walked into Wizards training camp without a guaranteed contract and therefore without a guaranteed roster spot.

With multiple players out, sidelined by injuries, Washington more than likely will enter the season with the league-maximum 15 on its roster. Even then, the nine-year veteran forward with touch from deep and a build for low post banging could remain on the outside looking in.

That is unless the team fears Nene's foot injury lingers several days beyond the Oct. 30 season opener at Cleveland. That is unless the Wizards remain cautious with Kevin Seraphin's calf injury remains. Then another big man might be required.

That's not Cook's call, but he's the apparent leader in the clubhouse should the Wizards make it.

"I don't control that," said Cook, who played 16 games for the Wizards last season after being acquired in a deal that sent Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers. "I can control myself, that's all I can control. I come here and work hard, try to play the right way. Try to play winning basketball. That's all I can control."

With a good chunk of the Wizards projected frontcourt out for stretches of the preseason, Cook along with fellow non-roster invitees Shavlik Randolph and Earl Barron have been more than practice players. Seeing action in five of Washington's six games, Cook has knocked down 5 of 9 three-point attempts (55.6 percent) in 12 minutes per contest.

Expect more of the same minutes-wise Wednesday night in Kansas City when the Wizards face the Miami Heat (8:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Randy Wittman continues searching for combinations rather than set a locked in rotation, meaning balanced minutes for most. It's not like he has much of a choice.

"As we've been riddled with injuries, I've kind of gone the other way here still. Mix and match, look at different guys all the way through," the Wizards coach said.

"We've had a lot of injuries. Getting a lot more time than I thought I would, which is always good," said Cook, the Los Angeles Lakers first round pick in 2003. "[Randy] has confidence in all the guys he brought in. We're all professionals, trying to do the right things, trying to make each other better."

The 31-year-old is a career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc, though he's been wayward from distance in recent seasons. Growing up, Cook played largely on the perimeter until a seven-inch growth spurt between eighth and ninth grade turned him into a frontcourt option. Though he remains most comfortable outside, the 250-pounder can battle in the lane, even taking a lap or two at center with the Clippers.

It's that kind of versatility combined with his league experience that could have the Wizards thinking about holding onto Cook when training camp breaks. Without Nene and Seraphin, the Wizards only interior options with any real size are Emeka Okafor and Jan Vesely. That might not be enough, especially when the Wizards face Kevin Garnett and the Celtics in a home-and-home situation as soon as the calendar flips to November.

Keep an extra big man. With John Wall out the first month, hold every point guard. Stay with all the shooters. These are among the final roster trimming debates Wittman and his coaching staff will have over the final two games.

Part of Washington's winning stretch of games at the end of last season, Cook, the basketball lifer hopes to keep it going in Chinatown.

"I've been playing this game since I was three years old," Cook said. "I love the game. I love winning. That's what they're trying to do around here. Hopefully I can help with that."

Notes: The Wizards held Bradley Beal out of practice on Tuesday, one day after the rookie guard tweaked his ankle during a tumble in practice. Beal walked without a limp and Wittman declared the first rounder a game-time decision against Miami.