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Pistons' Cade Cunningham welcomes the challenge of NBA

The No. 1 pick got off to a slow start in his NBA debut, but he's not letting that hold him back.

The Detroit Pistons' star rookie Cade Cunningham made is debut against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night but it wasn't great. He's not bothered
Nic AntayaAFP

Having made his debut in Saturday's 110-103 win against the Orlando Magic, the No. 1 pick has been given free reign.

Cade Cunningham gets his first minutes in the NBA

Absent for the entire entire preseason, there was indeed a great deal of anticipation surrounding Cade Cunningham's debut. The star rookie had suffered a sprained ankle during training camp and was out for an extended period of time before finally being cleared to play on Friday. Cunningham was, however, placed on a 20 to 25 minute restriction. The Pistons' new boy posted just 2 points to go with his 7 rebounds and 2 assists in a total of 18 minutes.

Cunningham is both anxious and positive

While he had hoped to score more, Cunningham was positive in his assessment of his first time out with his new team having returned from injury. "I think it was good. I feel like coming in, just being able to make some plays off the ball, get some rebounds. I felt like I was solid defensively," Cunningham stated. "And, I mean those are the points that I really wanted to come out and just prove to myself that my ankle was straight and that I could move, guard and do everything else. So, I got all the jitters out now and now I can just go play free."

Cunningham admitted to a degree of anxiety as he awaited his moment on the court. As for his single basket, it came courtesy of a layup up from the middle of the lane with 5:10 on the clock in the second quarter. "I wouldn't say it was anything I didn't envision or I couldn't imagine it being like," Cunningham said. "But, whenever you step out there, it's always different than what you might've had in your head as far as once you get out there, all the time you spent trying to prepare your mind for it, once you get out there, you're still gonna feel the over-excitement of just wanting to play."

For more from the NBA

Pistons' legend Isiah Thomas speaks up

Cunningham's debut came 40 years to the day after the legendary Isiah Thomas made his debut for the Pistons. On that day Thomas scored 31 points along with 11 assists against the Milwaukee Bucks. Speaking with ESPN Thomas was nostalgic, "what a coincidence and a pleasant surprise to be reminded of such great memories," Thomas told ESPN. "Truly unforgettable beginning with Detroit and the Pistons."

Pistons coach Dwane Casey sees the positive side

After making it clear that he didn't expect Cunningham to "save the day," Pistons' coach Casey was supportive of his debutante. "Exactly what I thought, I knew it was gonna be rust, timing and just the whole thing," Casey said. "You can't go a month and come out and expect to play the way you want to play, but I liked the effort, the intensity he played with, the way he pushed the ball, moved the ball, tried to make the right decisions and that's what we needed, the ball movement." In the end Cunningham shot 1-for-8 from the field (12.5 percent). That is the second-worst field goal percentage by a No. 1 overall pick in his NBA debut in the Modern Draft Era (since 1966).

Cade Cunningham isn't backing down

Without doubt there will be comparisons to 'this' player or 'that' season, however, it's clear that the Piston's rookie is up for the challenge.

"You don't have to listen to everything. I mean, they could say it, but it's all about if I put my ears to it and really let it resonate with me," Cunningham said. "I try to keep my energy in the right place. I try to keep my head in the right place and so, my team, they know what they expect out of me, I know what I expect out of me, so that's all that's really mattering to me. People can say whatever they want, outside of that, but I probably won't hear it."


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