Detroit — The mystery is over. Cade Cunningham is making his NBA debut on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Coach Dwane Casey confirmed before the game that Cunningham, the Pistons’ No. 1 overall pick, will play against the Orlando Magic. It’s a long-awaited beginning for Cunningham, who missed most of training camp and the first four preseason games because of a left ankle injury.
Cunningham immediately joined the starting lineup, but Casey said that the rookie will be on a minutes restriction of about 20-25 minutes in the opener.
“It’ll be shorter bursts, shorter stints,” Casey said, “so let the fans know not to be chanting for Cade because the medical people will have me arrested if I play him over a certain amount of minutes.”
Fans have been waiting to see Cunningham play for the first time, as he missed all of the preseason and Saturday will mark his first time playing at Little Caesars Arena. It’ll be his first game since the Summer League in Las Vegas.
There’s no real pep talk that needs to be had, but Casey said he just gave Cunningham some encouragement to not change anything.
“He told me yesterday he’s been playing since he was four — so do what you’ve been doing since you were four,” Casey said. “Have fun and compete. Don’t worry about mistakes — next-play mentality.
“We all in this room are grown-ups and we understand that he feels the pressure, but he shouldn’t. He should go out and have fun and compete and let everything else take care of itself as he knocks off the rust and gets back in the full swing.”