Pistons’ Cade Cunningham enters sophomore season healthy and ‘more comfortable’

Detroit News

New York — Cade Cunningham is equipped with a couple of things he didn’t have around this time last year: health and a full NBA season under his belt.

The Pistons’ second-year guard suffered an ankle injury during training camp last season and was forced to miss the entire preseason, along with the first five games of the regular season. Cunningham is entering his sophomore season with a clean bill of health and a healthy amount of experience, and he notices the difference from his rookie year.

“Night and day,” Cunningham told The Detroit News following Tuesday’s shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “Last year, I was hurt going into (the season) so I didn’t get any training camp. I didn’t get any practice reps. I was just on a bike trying to get my cardio up and now I went through a whole season. I feel so much more comfortable. I don’t have those jitters or feeling like I’m going through everything for the first time. I feel comfortable in my space and I’m just excited for the year to start, really.”

Cunningham said it’s beneficial for him to start the year healthy and alongside his teammates in training camp, especially since there are so many new pieces. The budding chemistry between him and rookie backcourt mate Jaden Ivey is vital, along with integrating former Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic into the mix.

The Pistons open the preseason under the bright lights at Madison Square Garden, one of the most historic arenas in the world. It’s a stage that bore witness to some of the most impressive performances in NBA history, including Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Cunningham flirted with a triple-double in his first game at The Garden with 7 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, but the Pistons lost to the Knicks, 105-91. However, he missed the next five games due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

Cunningham still relishes his first NBA game in The Garden.

“I didn’t play well, and I was sick after it,” Cunningham said. “Just wanting to play so good and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but it prepared me for this. I had to go through all that stuff to get to this point and where I’m at mentally. I’m excited to see what I’ve got this year.”

Ivey and Jalen Duren will play inside MSG for the first time as pros on Tuesday, a good tune-up for the Pistons’ regular-season road opener against the Knicks on Oct. 21.

“It’ll definitely be huge for Jaden (Ivey) and Jalen (Duren), this being their first one,” Cunningham said. “Obviously, this one is a big one to get through and to really experience it and feel it out, but after this, there’s not a stage bigger than this in the NBA, Once you get through this, I’m sure they’ll be comfortable.”

Pistons lauded in annual NBA GM survey

At the onset of each NBA season, every team’s general manager is polled to offer thoughts on the state of the league.

The NBA GM Survey, comprised of 50 questions about the best teams, players, coaches and offseason moves, was released Tuesday, and a few of the Pistons’ players were mentioned in several categories. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Percentages are based on the pool of respondents to that particular question, rather than all 30 GMs.

In this year’s survey, Pistons guard Cade Cunningham tied Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards for second as the player most likely to have a breakout season. Both players received 17% of the votes. Cleveland center Evan Mobley was named the player most likely to have a breakout season.

“It means a lot,” Cunningham told The News. “Top-three, top-two. That’s huge. People taking notice of my game. I try not to look into that stuff that much, though, because I have my own goals for this year. I have my own expectations for where I’m trying to be. I don’t really worry about how much they align with the fans and people that are watching. I just try to stay focused on where I need to be and stick to that.”

Bojan Bogdanovic, the Pistons’ newest acquisition, was named the fifth-most-underrated player acquisition, behind Malcom Brogdon (Boston), P.J. Tucker (Philadelphia), John Wall (L.A. Clippers) and De’Anthony Melton (Philadelphia).

Pistons rookie Jalen Duren tied Tari Eason (Houston) for the top rookie who was the biggest steal where he was selected in the draft. Duren was the No. 13 overall pick by Charlotte and he was traded to the Knicks before Detroit acquired him in a trade, along with Kemba Walker.

Jaden Ivey, the Pistons’ explosive combo guard, tied Jabari Smith (Houston) for the third among rookies who will be the best player in five years. Both Ivey and Smith received 14% of the vote.

New Pistons billboards

Detroiters can expect to see their favorite Pistons players on billboards across the city starting on Tuesday.

The Pistons have partnered with Detroit Votes 2022, a non-partisan campaign that ensures local Detroit residents have the facts and information they need to plan to vote. It’s another way the team is prioritizing civic engagement, as it has several times over the past few years.

Cunningham, Ivey and Saddiq Bey are among the few that will be displayed on billboards across the city.

Those who wish to vote can do so via absentee ballots, early-voting centers and secure dropboxes around Detroit.

More information can be found at detroitvotes.org.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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