By Matthew D’Olimpio
Shaw’s Supermarkets and the Boston Celtics hosted the Shaw’s Pro Summer League at the Clark Athletic Center July 15 through July 21 at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. The six-day tournament allowed selected members from NBA teams to compete in a series of off-season exhibition games.
Two such players with Queens ties, former St. John’s star Lavor Postell and Omar Cook, out of both Christ the King and St. John’s, not only appeared in the tournament for their respective teams, but also made headway for themselves. Both players, Postell for the Knicks and Cook for the Celtics, put up solid numbers in the tournament, which deserves to be noticed by both fans and coaches.
Cook, a 19-year-old avenger who stirred a media fury when he decided to jump ship with the Red Storm after just one year to play with the big boys, is looking to make a name for himself with the Boston Celtics after being batted among Denver, Dallas and the Developmental League last year. He received no playing time with Boston after being signed at the end of last season and needs to really pull his weight to see any action next season.
“What’s so good about me is I’m a guy who likes to give up the basketball first,” Cook said in one published report. “I play hard on offense. But I’m a distributor. There’s a number of scorers on the teams. That’s where I think I benefit most. I’m not a guy who needs to score to play well. That’s what separated me from a lot of the guards out there.”
While Cook did not receive much playing time in the Shaw’s tournament, he got a chance to show his style, appearing in two games, starting one, and averaging 17.5 minutes in each. In his brief appearances, Cook managed to score eight points per game, hitting half his field goals. The Celtics fared very well in the tournament, despite the absence of their star players, finishing in second place behind the Atlanta Hawks with a 5-1 record.
With fellow Queens native Kenny Anderson being traded from the Celtics to the Supersonics in a five-player deal Monday, which included a slumping Vin Baker, and the Celtics devastating luxury tax worries — they are spending nearly $34 million of their $40.27 million salary cap on Antoine Walker, Paul Peirce and now Vin Baker — the team may be looking for a young, inexpensive, developing player to replace the hole at point guard left by Anderson. Tony Delk and Erik Strickland also saw time in that position last season, but Delk proved unreliable at best and Strickland is now a potentially pricey free agent.
While Cook’s first performance with his team shows promise, in order for him to step up as the Celtics primary or even backup point guard, he will need to increase his steals and assists significantly — Anderson averaged 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game in 2001-2002 — and modify his defense to be more aggressive.
“As I understand it, if they like me after summer league, then they’ve got to guarantee me the rest of the season,” Cook was quoted as saying. “If they don’t, then they need to let me know after summer league.”
Cook, who is the exact size of Anderson at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, has the advantage of being younger with a more physical game. While the former Royals’ standout may lack the star power of the former Stanner Anderson when he entered the NBA, Cook has shown the potential ability to prove Queens proud once again.
If Cook is allowed his shot in the regular season and promotes potential to persuasion, the championship-hungry Celtics, which made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, may find an inexpensive replacement for Anderson, or at least a deeper line for their point guard position.
Things are slightly different for Postell, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-5 guard/forward, who rarely was used by the Knicks last season, averaging only 7.8 minutes per game with only 23 appearances and no starts.
Postell, a relatively young player, still has a lot to prove to the Knicks regarding his ability to play consistent basketball, specifically in regard to his field goal percentage and ability to grab defensive rebounds. He already has demonstrated in the regular season his ability to hit free throws, nailing 31 in 41 attempts last season, but mostly in garbage time.
Postell took advantage of the summer league and, despite the Knicks’ mediocre performance, finishing an even .500 with a 3-3 record, he put up respectable numbers, placing second on the team in overall scoring with 71 points (11.8 ppg), and also grabbed 15 defensive rebounds, while averaging 24.3 minutes per game. Postell also continued his dominance from the line, hitting 29 of 32 free throws (.906).
With any luck Postell will continue his upward momentum and new coach Don Chaney, who let the former Johnnie run a little toward the end of the year in 2001-2002, will take notice and grant Postell more playing time.
Reach contributing writer Matthew D’Olimpio by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.