Cade Cunningham has had a decent start to life in the NBA, after being selected with the first overall pick in the 2021 NDA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. In November, he became the youngest player in league history to put up at least 25 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists while also converting five 3-pointers in a game.
However, on Sunday night he found himself learning a valuable lesson – always be aware of the situation. He was ejected in the third quarter of the Pistons’ game against the Phoenix Suns at Little Caesars Arena for taunting. He had slammed the ball over Jalen Smith and followed it up by pointing in his direction – an action that earned him his second technical four of the quarter.
“I had my people right behind the bench,” said the 20-year-old after the game, via the Detroit Free Press. “I went baseline to dunk the ball, and he’s right in between me and my people. I probably should’ve read that situation better. I don’t really get into taunting too much. Usually, I’m chilling after a play. I realized the situation after he tech’ed me up, but I didn’t think I was going to get a tech. I let coach Monty (Williams of the Suns) over there, let him know, ‘Good game,’ and stuff like that.”
The rookie finished the game with 21 points, one rebound, and four assists in 24 minutes against the Suns. While it was the first ejection of his career, his head coach doesn’t seem too concerned about the incident.
“He said Cade pointed at the guy that he dunked on,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey told members of the media following the contest, via the Detroit Free Press. “I didn’t see that part. I thought he was pointing toward his teammate. That’s why he said he got a technical for and got ejected for, he already had one. I’ve seen a lot worse things to get ejected for than that. The Josh one, I haven’t looked at it yet. He said Josh hit or pushed, or whatever at (Ish) Wainwright. I didn’t see that part either, I have to look at that.
“We’re not in position as a team to complain. Let me be the bad guy to fight for us. As a young team, we shouldn’t get that reputation of complaining to officials. Until we get to that level, we have to button up and zip up and play our butts off.”
Cunningham’s ejection really set his team back against the Suns and they ultimately fell 135-108 to drop to 10-32 on the season. The Orlando Magic are the only team in the Eastern Conference with a worse record than the Pistons. Despite their struggles though, Cunningham believes he and his teammates are committed to finding success.
“We’re still locked in,” Cunningham said. “We feel ourselves getting better and growing together. This is a big road trip that we got to go into, we’re going to play some good teams. We’re excited to take that challenge on and see what we got.”