There is nothing subtle about Daequan Cook's long-range shooting, which frequently resembles daggers thrown at opponents from 10 paces.
When Cook was named the replacement for injured starter Thabo Sefolosha, many assumed the Thunder would simply take whatever points Cook provided and the team would deal with his defensive shortcomings as best it could.
Guess again. What actually earned Cook a starting role at the off-guard spot was his subtle effectiveness on defense.
Non-believers need only look at Cook's not-so-subtle defensive contribution Friday night in the Thunder's pulsating 101-94 comeback victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Cook had seven rebounds and tied a career-high with three blocked shots. He alternated hounding Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo on defense for 32 minutes while occasionally lending help-and-recover assists of defensive variety to needy teammates.
“DC was all over the ball, all over the floor,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said afterward.
Cook also found time to score five points. He shot 0 for 5 in the first half and buried his only two attempts after intermission.
Cook's offense was an afterthought on a night when the Big Three of Kevin Durant (36), James Harden (24) and Russell Westbrook (21) did the heavy lifting.
Afterward, the man whom Cook replaced handed out high praise.
“He's an underrated defensive player,” Sefolosha said of Cook. “He can do a lot of things on the court that people don't even know about — grabbing rebounds, help defense, one-on-one defense. Tonight, he showed a lot of things we're not used to seeing out of him.”
Cook apparently will remain in the starting lineup for several more games. Sefolosha said his sore right foot with be re-examined in 4-5 days and he will not practice in the meantime.
Cook's defensive presence was immediate Friday. He blocked an Allen shot 2½ minutes into the game and broke up an alley-oop attempt from Memphis two minutes later.
Mayo misfired at 5 for 16 from the field and 0 for 5 from 3-point range, which included a key block by Cook with 6:31 remaining in the game, shortly after the Thunder had re-captured the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
Long before game time, Durant and Kendrick Perkins were among those spreading the word about Cook's defense.
“A lot of people don't know that about him since he's a great shooter, but he's an underrated defender,” Durant said. “He does a great job on help defense and one-on-one defense. He means a lot to this team.”
Perkins: “One thing that D Cook will bring is he spaces the court. You don't have to worry about the paint being too crowded. Also, he's an underrated defender and he's an underrated rebounder. No question we miss Thabo, but with D Cook, we're excited to have him in the starting lineup.”
Brooks admitted sometimes it takes a second glance to fully appreciate Cook's defense.
“Those are the little things that he does well, sometimes I'll overlook it until I see game film the next morning,” Brooks said. “They are very subtle, but there are very necessary for our defense our defense to work. He's not a one-dimensional player.”
Cook said he was surprised his teammates and coaches noticed his defensive subtleties.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Cook said. “It just showed a little more lately. It was just a matter of becoming more and more comfortable and doing the things I was capable of doing. It's not just about me knocking down shots. Teams have to play me honest, and sometimes that can cause a problem for them.
“I know what I have to do on this team other than knock down shots to help this team win.”