in February 2021 before undergoing ankle surgery that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. But during that time, Cunningham was focused on rehabilitating his injury and preparing for his rookie season.
Now, as he makes his return to the court, Cunningham aims to pick up right where he left off. The 20-year-old guard brings a unique skill set and maturity beyond his years, traits that have already caught the attention of his teammates and coaching staff.
“He’s just a very mature player,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s one of the hardest workers we have. His work ethic is off the charts. He’s a gym rat.”
Cunningham’s work ethic and dedication to improving his game have not gone unnoticed. Despite the setbacks caused by his injury, he continued to hone his skills and stay sharp mentally. This summer, as he participated in the NBA’s rising stars showcase, it was evident that Cunningham had not lost a step.
“He’s really good, man,” Pistons guard Killian Hayes said. “I’ve known him for a couple of years now. Just his mentality, how hard he works, is next level. He’s always going to be great.”
Cunningham’s impact extends beyond his on-court contributions. He has already made an impression on his teammates with his leadership qualities and ability to connect with others.
“He’s such a great guy, man,” Pistons forward Jerami Grant said. “He’s a very smart player, high IQ. But off the court, he’s just a great guy to be around. He’s trying to get to know everybody, trying to make sure everyone is good. He’s just a natural leader.”
While Cunningham’s leadership and work ethic are undeniable, it is his skills as a basketball player that truly set him apart. At 6-foot-8, he possesses a unique combination of size, athleticism, and basketball IQ. He can score from anywhere on the court, has excellent court vision, and is a capable defender.
“He’s got a tremendous feel for the game,” Casey said. “And he’s got a unique ability to read the game that you don’t see in players, especially young guys. And he’s got a great feel for time and score. He’s got a lot of intangibles that a lot of people don’t have.”
The Pistons are hopeful that Cunningham’s arrival will mark the beginning of a new era for the franchise. With a young core that includes the likes of Hayes, Grant, and Isaiah Stewart, the team is building for the future. And Cunningham is expected to be at the forefront of that future.
“He’s going to be a huge, huge part of what we’re trying to build here,” Weaver said. “He’s going to be a cornerstone for us for many years to come.”
As Cunningham makes his highly anticipated return to the NBA, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding him. The expectations are high, but Cunningham is ready to embrace the challenge and prove himself on the biggest stage.
“I’m very excited, man,” Cunningham said. “This is something that I’ve been dreaming about my whole life, just playing in the NBA. It’s finally here, so I’m ready to go.”
While Cunningham may have changed physically since his last game, his game itself remains the same. The talent and potential that made him the No. 1 pick are still there, now accompanied by a newfound sense of maturity and leadership. And as he takes the court for the Pistons, all eyes will be on him, eager to witness the next chapter in the story of Cade Cunningham.
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