PARIS – For the first time in what seems like a long time, Kid Cunningham feels part of the Detroit Pistons again.
The 2021 No. 1 pick has been forced into the background over the past month. He’s been laid away, working in silence and trying to come back bigger and better after season-ending surgery on his left leg in mid-December. Cunningham traveled to Paris with the Pistons, who take on the Chicago Bulls on Thursday at the Accor Arena. It’s his first trip with his team since going under the knife.
Cunningham looks bigger. His chest is wider. His biceps are more defined. The 21-year-old has clearly taken advantage of his limited options in the weight room.
The surgery derailed Detroit’s season. This year was about development, of course, but team development is like anything else. Individuals progressed, but the team, due to a large number of injuries, could not build continuity or form an identity. Having a #1 size hole in general missing is a huge reason for this.
With all of that in mind, Cunningham almost chose not to have surgery. Think about it for weeks. Cunningham could have continued to play on the injured shin, but he would have risked a chronic injury or something worse. The possibility of being able to play the game he loves, advance in the Pistons, and make a name for himself in the NBA are the things Cunningham sat as he pondered his decision.
“It’s tough, man,” said Cunningham. the athlete In Paris. “I’m so young in my career and for me, I feel like I still haven’t shown people who I am. I started to get a rhythm, but then my flair kept killing me. It was hard for me to put the whole season aside and just sit and take care of it.” Everyone, I realize it’s a long game, and I have a lot of basketball to play in. I just want to be able to play my game and not think about my body and try to compensate for different things.”
There was also something else.
“I went vegan [years ago] “Because of the things I put in my body,” Cunningham said. “I’m trying to take it seriously. The idea of putting a foreign object, a big penis in my leg, scared me a little bit. I didn’t know how to do it. I trusted my legs. God gave me these legs. I’ve been nervous about it. For the past few weeks, as I was able to see the progress and how things are recovering, I don’t regret it at all.”
The surgery in mid-December was Cunningham’s first time in surgery – aside from a small nail procedure. This was the real deal, and it made him nervous. Knowing that Cunningham, a cornerstone of the franchise, was feeling uneasy about the selection, Detroit’s decision makers and physicians left the ball in his court. The Pistons, of course, wanted Cunningham to undergo surgery, recover and better move forward. Detroit has the next ten years, not one season, in mind.
Cunningham admitted that he’s been dealing with various amounts of discomfort since high school, finally getting to a point where something requires addressing, or at least serious consideration.
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While determining which direction to take, Cunningham spoke to several current players, ex-players, current coaches, and older coaches who’ve had the surgery and made up their minds. He has spoken to the likes of Jrue Holiday, Rodney McGruder, Tim Hardaway Jr. , who made Cunningham feel better moving forward than getting his leg taken care of now.
“He was actually the guy who made me feel the most comfortable about it,” Cunningham said of Hardaway. “He was the last person I talked to about it. He had the best experience with her. I went to the same doctor he was with. Everything went fine. He’s the kind of guy who, after I talked to him, I was like, ‘I’m going to do this’ and I felt complacent about it.”
Cunningham’s spirits are high. He missed his team, he missed playing, but the trip to Paris allowed him to reconnect with his comrades within the framework of the team. He will miss the season, but it looks like it will be worth the wait for Detroit fans everywhere.
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(Photo by Cade Cunningham: Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)