What do you know of Detroit Pistons star Cade Cunningham? The biggest news of the season surrounded an injury to the second year guard. Cunningham is out for the season after undergoing a medical procedure to correct issues with his shins. Something that’s plagued him since high school.

So when I saw him just outside of the Comerica Players Club at Little Caesars arena, I thought “this is my chance to ask him for an update.” As I approached, fans kept popping out from the club into the usually very secure hallway. All because of Cunningham. I waited and just observed his interactions with the fans. With each request for a photo, it seemed Cade was enjoying it just as much as the fans.

So when the last fan had finally gotten their picture, I thought not to bother him much as his fan interaction went longer than anticipated.

So in passing, I just looked over and said “I hope the recovery is going well and that life is treating you good. Do you care to say anything quick for the socials?”

Cade Cunningham’s response: “No solo. Nah, no solo stuff. but I’ll do something for you. If you’re in the picture, I’ll take it. That’s how we do.”

“…I’ll do something for you.”

I was stunned, and shocked. But found the air to keep my composure. I had only gotten to speak with Cunningham up to that point, in press conferences. They provide some personal experience, but not as much as what was on display in that hallway. And I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of happy fans there that day who got to take interact with Cade. Just before the Pistons were gearing up to leave for their NBA Paris game against the Chicago Bulls.

Detroit Pistons fan Chaim from Oak Park, MI with Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons

Chaim from Oak Park, MI with Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena

Chaim from Oak Park, MI, one of the fans who snagged a photo stated: “He (Cade) understands that he carries the city of Detroit. You can see it the way he spends time with the fans. Every time I was there, he was signing things for all the kids. Spending more time than others on the team.”

To some, Cade Cunningham has become a distant memory in a season not as competitive as promised. With fan frustration boiling over at the production on the court. Some don’t believe Cunningham would’ve made that much of a difference this year in the win column if healthy. Though no way to prove it, there’s the track record from last season post all-star break. The Detroit Pistons win percentage jumped from sub .230 to plus .410 with a 10-14 record to end the season in games that Cunningham played in.

That’s a pretty big sample size. During that time Cunningham become one of the best clutch players in the entire NBA too. Opposing NBA stars and players began to compliment his game, with Demar Derozan’s love for Cade the one that comes to mind the quickest. His exuberance when hearing his name just stuck with me from the first time I saw the interview. I remember thinking “we got one” as it relates to a respected NBA star player.

And he was just a rookie at the time.

Coming into year two, Cunningham said he had some things figured out about the NBA game. He talked about knowing what to train on, overcoming the mid-season slow down, learning the techniques defenders use and more. During his media day appearance to start the season, he sounded ready to build on the positive close, to the year before.

But the season injury decision to get surgery was the correct decision, but derailed a good sophomore season. Including a four game stretch that showed he was starting to take things to another level. The Atlanta Hawks (x2), Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks witnessed 27.75 PPG, 8.25 RPG, 7.5 APG and 2 STOCKS (steals + blocks) per game. Those are lofty numbers up from his season ending averages of about 20 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6 assists a game. Those numbers aren’t anything to scoff at either.

Since the injury, it’s been a nice change to see Cunningham back on the bench looking healthy after surgery. Supporting his teammates, interacting with fans and more. It speaks to the person Cade is off the court, as much as who he proves to be on the court. Truly someone that chooses to walk the walk, rather than talk the PR talk.

Walking the Walk

This, the same Cade Cunningham who helped a couple young Purdue fans get a Jaden Ivey autograph. He ran all the way from the court to the locker room with the jerseys they wore to the game, and came back out with them signed. Indiana Pacer fans who fell in love with Ivey who played at the near by college.

Cunningham also helped make Christmas a reality for thousands of kids in Detroit and the surrounding metro area. He donated $70,000 total, and even supported his hometown of Arlington, TX. His organization, “Cade’s Care Closets”, supports students of the local community with snacks, and hygiene products.

It’s been unfortunate that Cade Cunningham, the team and the fans saw his second season cut short. But he hasn’t stopped ‘playing‘ for Detroit, despite cheering on his team from the bench every game.

Cade Cunningham and Brandon Dent @DetroitKkoolAid at Little Caesars Arena

Cade Cunningham and Brandon Dent (@DetroitKoolAid) at Little Caesars Arena

What’s Next

The Detroit Pistons play the Chicago Bulls Thursday, January 19th, at 7 PM.

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Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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By Published On: January 17th, 2023Categories: Detroit Pistons, NBA

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