Detroit Pistons youthful gem Cade Cunningham had a lopsided start of his career as a professional cager. After gaining heartwarming recognition as the No. 1 overall pick of the recent NBA Draft, things went colder — as public criticisms and mockery have swarmed him in the first few steps of his basketball journey.
As he suffered from a left ankle sprain in the Las Vegas Summer League and was only allowed to suit up in the regular season on Oct. 30, fans flocked and delivered their sour assessment on his two-point output in 19 minutes against the Orlando Magic.
And now, 25 days apart from the moment he was tagged as a “draft bust”, Cunningham has nothing but a solid reflection after a productive burst so far.
“I didn’t pay too much attention to what was being said after I had a slow start,” Cunningham stated in his part two diary on The Undefeated via Marc J. Spears. “I wasn’t going to let it beat me up or change my way of thinking. But I definitely knew what was being said, and I tried to move accordingly. I feel like somebody would be a liar if they said they didn’t know what was being spoken of them.
“But at the same time, I’m not basing how I think off these other people’s opinions from the outside. I’m the kind of person that every day is going to get better, and I think that’s why I had a quick turnaround.”
After hearing people voicing out “bust” claims directed to him, the former Oklahoma State sensation realized that he has something to prove out of the swirling impression.
“A lot of people were trying to say I was a bust. I thought that was pretty funny in my eyes. That’s something I took note of. Like: ‘All right. Well, we’ll have to see about it.’ That caught my eye. I wasn’t doing no tripping. I’m not going to say I respected that, but I definitely heard it.”
After returning from his ankle recovery and being cleared to play, Cunningham was optimistic all along. In spite of not being able to produce plenty enough of numbers to satisfy people’s expectations in his debut game, one thing is much important to him: he savored his first official moment as an NBA player — realizing that the ultimate childhood dream has come in reality
“When I got cleared to play, I was excited. I was anxious to get out there and hoop again,” Cunningham said. “My first game, it was really just more fun than anything to be able to get back out there and hoop at that level. Being in the NBA was always a dream of mine.
“The game didn’t go how I originally thought it would, or dreamed of it going. But nonetheless, it was fun for sure. I kept the jersey. I’m going to get that framed. Give that to my parents, and they will have that memory forever.”
For now, Cunningham is committed to his daily development with the rebuilding Pistons. The slow but sure progress means a lot — as familiarization, fulfillment and consistency keeps on increasing.
“I’m just taking this season one day at a time,” Cunningham provided. “Trying to be consistent in my approach as far as getting better and trying to help the team. And I feel like just taking one day at a time, not thinking too far ahead, one game at a time, at any given game, you can get a win. If we go play hard and play together, we should be fine. I’m getting better and getting more and more comfortable with my teammates. My coaches and everybody’s getting more and more comfortable with me at the same time.
“Everything is starting to come together slowly but surely, and I’m having a lot of fun playing.”
In his first seven games donning the Pistons’ blue and red, he was logging an average of 11.7 points, 5.1 boards, 3 assists and almost a steal. While now, the flashes of superstar potential within is finally being unleashed — carving up an all-round statistics of 18.3 markers, 8.5 rebounds, 7.5 dimes and 2.3 steals in the last four occasions against the Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers, respectively.
The 20-year-old wunderkind will continue to achieve greater heights with his intangibles, ceiling and abilities to excel. As such, he is destined to be the savior of a lost franchise that was relatively known for its hard-nosed, championship mentality back then.