Jalen Rose: Detroit Pistons have their next All-Star backcourt in Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey

Detroit Free Press

As an NBA analyst for ESPN/ABC, Jalen Rose has often had the honor of being among the first native Detroiters to welcome the Detroit Pistons’ draft picks to his hometown.

In June, he did so for a player who also has strong Detroit ties. The Pistons’ lottery pick, Jaden Ivey, wasn’t born in Detroit, but his father, Javin Hunter, was born and raised in the city. Ivey’s paternal grandfather, James Hunter, played for the Detroit Lions. And his mom, Niele Ivey, is a former guard for the Detroit Shock.

Rose was thrilled on draft night when Ivey fell in the Pistons’ lap with the fifth overall pick. Ivey and Cade Cunningham could form one of the NBA’s most potent up-and-coming guard duos next season.

“When you talk to me about the Pistons, it made me think about great backcourts,” Rose said at the 12th annual Jalen Rose Leadership Academy Celebrity Golf Classic on Monday at Detroit Golf Club. “There was my biological father, Jimmy Walker, and Dave Bing was an All-Star backcourt in the 70s. And then Bad Boys, Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas was an All-Star backcourt, right? How about Chauncey B-B-Billups and Rip Hamilton? An All-Star backcourt. I think we now have another All-Star backcourt in Jaden and Cade Cunningham.”

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Count Rose among the large contingent of Pistons fans who have high expectations for this promising Pistons core. Rose’s golf outing for his school, which opened in 2011, featured appearances from Bing, Lions Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson, former Michigan and Pistons center Terry Mills, former Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards, among others.

Rose is also a big fan of Cunningham, who he compared to Grant Hill during his golf classic in 2021. Rose’s reaction to the Pistons winning the NBA draft lottery last summer went viral, and he appreciates that Cunningham wore “buffs”  — Cartier C Décor white buffalo horn-frame glasses, a staple in Detroit fashion — on draft night.

Cunningham averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game in his first season and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. His leadership on and off the floor quickly endeared him to Detroit’s front office, coaching staff and locker room.

“I believe the way Cade not only led and matured on and off the floor last year, and was not only able to create his own shot and be a lot more effective and efficient, just look at the way he played against the Nets, going against (Kevin Durant),” Rose said. “Now for him to have somebody that’s going to make the game easier for him, because Ivey’s a blur, he’s been knocking down shots in practice, working really hard. I’m really excited about the potential of our team. I’m excited about the culture that they’re building.

“Really excited about what Tom Gores, my good friend, has done with the team, and the support that Platinum Equity, who sponsors this golf outing, and the Detroit Pistons who sponsor JRLA, and I’m truly grateful for that support,” Rose continued. “Troy Weaver has been fantastic helping them build a culture. Dwane Casey still in tow. I’m excited about Detroit Pistons basketball, and you guys know I’m going to be there regardless. I’m going to be there if it’s April and we’re going to the lottery, or I’m going to be there when it’s Game 7 in the Finals. I’m excited about this year.

Rose is also proud of how the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy navigated the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented, and is optimistic that this school year will return to normalcy. Last year featured a full return to in-person learning, with masking recommendations and daily temperature checks, after opting for a hybrid of in-person and online learning the previous school year. Arn Tellem and his wife, Nancy, donated $139,000 to the school in 2020 to purchase laptops for every student. 

“From when school first closed, I remember being on the phone with the Pistons and Arn Tellem and I was like, we need computers,” Rose said. “He and his wife, Nancy, came through and that was big because the pandemic taught me a lot about myself, it taught me a lot about education. One of the things that I learned is our young people are able to use school and the activities that come with school, and the extracurriculars of sports, and the camaraderie that comes with school, a lot of times as an escape from home. That eight hours gives you a chance to whatever’s going on at home. I had levels of dysfunction in my house growing up. But when I got on the bus to Livernois to go to (Southwestern) southwest, that was my escape. And it seemed like they lost that escape. That in itself is tough on young people.

“I’m happy that we’ll be back in the building, learning, hopefully everybody’s safe, mask-free hopefully, and just continuing the great work that they’ve done and their parents and the sacrifices that they’ve made to take this education space, to take their lives and their opportunities to another level.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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