Cade Cunningham delivered perhaps the highlight of his young career with a vicious dunk along the baseline, but the Detroit Pistons rookie didn’t have long to enjoy it because he was ejected from the game seconds later in controversial fashion.
Before we get into the details, though, we should enjoy his dunk against the visiting Phoenix Suns in all its glory.
Cunningham was ejected for pointing, presumably because the refs considered it was an act that constituted taunting and gave him his second technical of the day. He received one earlier in the game for arguing about a no-call.
Just who Cade was pointing at is unclear — it could have been a ref with some words about a missed called — or it could have been his own bench. Either way, though, to remove one of the best young players in the game right after a highlight dunk for pointing is a ridiculous move that the refs will explain away but won’t be able to justify.
He didn’t get into anybody’s face. He didn’t do anything aggressive. He pointed. After the dunk of the game. And then immediately ran back on defense. The moment had passed but it just had to be the Ref Show out there.
After the call, Cunningham didn’t argue with anyone but he went around to his teammates and to Suns coach Monty Williams to deliver a few words. Presumably apologizing to his teammates for getting tossed and to Williams to let him know he wasn’t trying to show anyone up.
The dunk occurred just after Devin Booker delivered a tip dunk of his own, and the Suns star had proclaimed throughout the game how Detroit was “his city.” I’m sure that was sitting in the back of his mind as Cunningham was delivering his own statement on who the city of Detroit really belongs to. But he did it in a typically understated, Cade Cunningham-like way.
Cunningham finished the day with 21 points, 4 assists and zero turnovers in 24 minutes of action. As of this writing (the game is still chugging along in garbage time), Booker had 30 points on 18 shots in 29 minutes.
It was a fun little battle, and a chance for Cade to get a little spotlight since the 1 p.m. tip was the only NBA action going. It’s a shame the refs had to make themselves known.