Pistons’ Cade Cunningham on shin surgery: ‘No regrets at all’

Pistons’ Cade Cunningham on shin surgery: ‘No regrets at all’

PARIS — For the first time in what seems like a long time, Cade Cunningham it feels like part of the Detroit Pistons again.

The 2021 No. 1 pick has been forced into the background over the past month. He’s been in hiding, working quietly and trying to come back bigger and better later season-ending surgery on his left elbow in mid-December. Cunningham traveled to Paris with the Pistons, who will face the Chicago Bulls Thursday at the Accor Arena. It’s his first trip with his team since going under the knife.

Cunningham looks older. His chest wider. His more defined biceps. The 21-year-old has clearly made use of his limited options in the weight room.

The surgery derailed Detroit’s season. This year was about development, of course, but about team development as much as anything. Individuals have made progress, but the team, due to a large number of injuries, has been unable to build continuity or form an identity. Missing a hole the size of pick no. 1 is one of the big reasons.

With all of this in mind, Cunningham almost chose not to have surgery. He pondered 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 likes, progress with the Pistons and make a name for himself in it N.B.A these are things that sat with Cunningham as he reflected on his decision.

“It’s tough, man,” Cunningham said The Athletic in Paris “I’m so young in my career and for me, I feel like I haven’t shown people who I am yet. I started to pick up the pace, but then the shin just kept killing me. It was hard for me to put the whole season aside, sit down and take care of it. After talking to everyone, I realized it’s a long game and I have a lot more basketball to play. I just want to be able to play my game and not think about my body and try to overcompensate on different things.”

There was also something else.

“I was vegan [years ago] because of the things I’m putting in my body,” Cunningham said. “I try to take it very seriously. The thought of putting a strange object, a large rod in my leg, scared me a little. I didn’t know how to do it. I trusted my leg. God gave me these legs. I was nervous about it. During the last few weeks, where I have been able to see the progression and how things are healing, I have no regrets at all.”

The mid-December surgery was the first time Cunningham endured an operation, well, other than a small nail procedure. This was the real deal, and it made him nervous. Knowing that Cunningham, the franchise cornerstone, was uncomfortable with the pick, Detroit officials and doctors left the ball in their court. The Pistons, of course, wanted Cunningham to have surgery, heal and get better. Detroit has the next 10 years in mind, not one season.

Cunningham admitted that he has been dealing with various shin ailments since high school and finally reached a point where something needed to be addressed, or at least seriously considered.


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While deciding which way to go, Cunningham spoke with several current players, former players, current coaches and senior coaches who underwent the surgery and picked their brains. He talked to people like Jrue Holiday, Rodney McGruder i Tim Hardaway Jr.which ultimately made Cunningham feel better about moving forward with his shin care now.

“He was actually the guy that made me feel more comfortable,” Cunningham said of Hardaway. “He was the last guy I talked to about it. He had the best experience with it. I went to the same doctor as him. Everything went perfect. He’s the kind of guy that, after talking to him, I said : “I’ll do it” and it felt good.”

Cunningham’s spirits are high. He missed his team, and he misses playing, but the trip to Paris has allowed him to reunite with his boys in a team environment. He’ll be out for the season, but it looks like it could be worth the wait for Detroit fans everywhere.

Pistons’ Cade Cunningham on shin surgery: ‘No regrets at all’


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(Cade Cunningham Photo: Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)

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