Cade Cunningham is nearing his return after suffering a left ankle sprain early in training camp. But nearly a month after the injury, it isn’t clear when the No. 1 pick will return.
Cunningham, the Detroit Pistons‘ No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, could make his NBA debut Saturday night at home against the Orlando Magic, but the Pistons haven’t set a firm timeline on when Cunningham will return from his injury. Last week, general manager Troy Weaver said the hope was to see Cunningham play when the Pistons returned home from their three-game road trip.
The rookie was not listed in Friday night’s injury report which teams release a day before their next game, another indication that Cunningham could play Saturday.
After spending this week practicing with the Motor City Cruise, he rejoined the Pistons on Friday once they returned from Philadelphia. He participated in offensive drills during practice, coach Dwane Casey said, and the team will see if he’s ready to go Saturday.
“If his body feels like it, the doctors agree with it, he’ll go when he can go,” Casey said Friday. “It’ll be his people’s, the medical people’s decision. I’m just waiting to see when he’s available, and we’re ready to go. I think he’s ready, he understands what we need to be doing.”
His ankle injury was initially characterized as minor, but as of Sunday, Cunningham still felt pain in it while attempting some movements. The Pistons’ medical staff won’t clear him to play until they’re certain he won’t make the injury worse by playing on it.
During Cunningham’s absence, the Pistons have gotten off to an 0-4 start and have been one of the NBA’s worst offensive teams. But Casey cautioned against putting too much pressure on Cunningham to turn Detroit’s fortunes around. After all, he’s still a rookie.
While Cunningham could help the Pistons win games, the Pistons need to play better than they’ve played so far. Casey has preached executing the small details better, and the team is shooting 25.8% from 3 — worst in the league.
“I hope everyone doesn’t come out and put tremendous pressure, like this young man is going to come out and save the day, because he’s not even though he’s a great young player,” Casey said. “I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. I want him to come out and play basketball whenever he does come out, and let the game come to him. We’re not 0-4 because of Cade Cunningham. We’re 0-4 because of us and things we’ve gotta do better and do longer against really good teams. I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him when he does step on the floor.”
The Pistons visit Brooklyn on Sunday, then host Milwaukee on Tuesday, Philadelphia on Thursday and Brooklyn on Friday.