Iowa Men's Basketball

Tyler Cook's whirlwind week ends with NBA roster spot in Cleveland

Rookie from Iowa will be with Cavaliers for Wednesday season-opener

Iowa forward Tyler Cook (25) scores around Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis (13) during the first half of their men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 1, 2019. Cook is now a Cleveland Cavalier, playing for then-Michigan coach John Beilein. (The Gazette)
Iowa forward Tyler Cook (25) scores around Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis (13) during the first half of their men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 1, 2019. Cook is now a Cleveland Cavalier, playing for then-Michigan coach John Beilein. (The Gazette)

Tyler Cook had a heck of a week, one with a very happy ending.

Last Wednesday, the 6-foot-9 rookie forward from Iowa was placed on waivers by the NBA’s Denver Nuggets a week before the start of the 2019-20 season. Two days later, he was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Saturday, the Cavs announced Cook would be on their roster for this season as a two-way player.

An offseason of uncertainty from the day Cook announced he was leaving Iowa’s program as a junior to the Cleveland signing is over. He’s an NBA player.

“To say it’s been nuts is an understatement,” Cook said by phone Sunday. “It’s been pretty eventful, obviously, since I was in Denver for the second half of the summer.

“My first priority is getting on the court and trying to prove I belong.”

After going undrafted in June following a junior season in which he led the Hawkeyes in scoring and rebounding, Cook played for the Nuggets’ NBA Summer League team in July and signed a two-way contract with them in August. He played in two preseason games before being waived, then Cleveland called with a two-way deal of its own.

Each team has two two-way players. A two-way contracts mean a player can spend up to 45 days in a season with the NBA team, and is in the NBA G League the rest of the season. Days spent on the NBA roster don’t count toward the 45 days until the G League season begins in November.

So while Cook eventually will head to the Cavs’ G League team in Canton, Ohio, he’ll be with the Cavaliers Wednesday when their NBA season begins with a game at Orlando.

Getting cut by the Nuggets, he said, wasn’t a shock.

“I kind of saw it coming,” Cook said. “I understood the situation the team was in and the things they needed. I had a great relationship with the players, coaches, some guys in the front office. They were transparent with me. I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for the organization. They reached out to other teams to sing my praises.

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“My agent listed eight or nine teams that showed interest. I was planning on going to another club and getting a lesser deal, but then I got the call from Cleveland. I was on a flight a couple hours later. I got here at midnight, went to bed, woke up, and practiced with the team. It’s been super interesting, to say the least.”

First-year Cavaliers Coach John Beilein was Michigan’s coach for all of Cook’s time as a Hawkeye. Beilein offered Cook a scholarship in 2014 before the player committed to Iowa.

“I have a long history with Tyler and recruited him as well,” Beilein told reporters after Saturday’s practice, “and then playing against Iowa he got us some, we got him some, and I love the kid. So he’s going to be a great addition.”

Cook might play in the Cavs’ season-opener. Center John Henson missed training camp because of a groin strain and may not be available for a little while. Another veteran post player, Ante Zizic, has plantar fasciitis in his left foot and will be out at least a month.

“I still haven’t wrapped my head around everything that’s going on,” Cook said. “There hasn’t been much time to sit back and analyze everything that’s happened in the last 72 hours. But that comes with the territory.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be with a group that’s trying to find themselves. In the first day of practice, they threw me into the fire. I’m enjoying every second of it.”

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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