Cade Cunningham has shown, in various spurts this season, that he can live up to the lofty expectations that were set when the Detroit Pistons drafted him No. 1 overall in July. He already has a highlight reel of clutch buckets, and the team has performed substantially better with him on the floor than on the bench.
Unfortunately, a variety of maladies have caused Cunningham to miss a fourth of his rookie season. A sprained ankle held him out of training camp and cost him five of the Pistons’ first six games. A bout of COVID-19 caused him to miss four more games in December.
His most recent injury, a right hip pointer, forced him to sit out Detroit’s previous five games entering Friday’s visit from the Charlotte Hornets. Cunningham returned to action, but his minutes were restricted during the 141-119 blowout. He logged just 22 minutes and finished with 12 points, five rebounds and six turnovers.
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While he’s healthy enough to play, he’s still dealing with soreness.
“Certain movements cause some discomfort, more than anything,” Cunningham said. “But I’m just trying to work through it, get back right and get better.”
Cunningham has missed 14 of Detroit’s 56 games thus far. Injuries have been a consistent issue for the Pistons, as Kelly Olynyk missed 37 games with a left knee sprain and health and safety protocols, and Jerami Grant missed 25 largely because of a thumb injury and health and safety protocols. Detroit’s prized rookie and two highest-paid players have shared little time on the court.
The Pistons are exercising caution with Cunningham, who should get some rest during the All-Star break. Detroit has two road games next week before Cunningham participates in the Rising Stars Challenge in Cleveland with Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. After that, he’ll get several days off before the Pistons resume their season at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 24.
“He came out, hadn’t played in a while,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “Didn’t want to run him in the ground. He’s gotta get his legs back under him, and the medical people wanted us to watch his minutes.”
While Detroit has been much better with Cunningham in the lineup this season, Friday was an exception. The Pistons trailed by 24 points at halftime, and the Hornets cracked the 100-point threshold with more than four minutes left in the third quarter. The Pistons committed 18 turnovers, resulting in 24 Hornets points.
“Obviously it’s concerning but I don’t think it’s something that isn’t easily fixable,” Bey said. “I think they’re a team that plays real fast, gets the ball out quick. I think we have to stick to what we do and I think we tried to match that pace a little bit. And, we just got to stick to what we do as a team and us trying to match that speed, I think got us into some of those quick and easy turnovers. I just think going back to the drawing board we just got to look at how we play our way every single time.”
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