Pistons won't be 'stupid' and rush Cunningham's debut

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When the Pistons open the season Wednesday night against the Bulls, it's not clear if Cade Cunningham will open his career. The No. 1 overall pick is nursing an ankle injury he suffered early in training camp -- and the Pistons are of no mind to rush him back on the floor.

"For me, it’s about his health and his longevity," Dwane Casey said Monday after Cunningham went through portions of Detroit's practice. "We don’t want to be stupid and come out and force him out there and now he’s out another month or whatever it is. We want to be cautious, we want to make sure he gets as many of these practices in as he can. Again, it’s a day-by-day thing."

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From the start, Casey has said he wants Cunningham to get in a couple full practices before playing in a game. That would put his status for the season-opener in doubt. Whatever the case, the Pistons aren't pigeon-holing Cunningham's debut.

"If he’s not ready, he’s not ready," Casey said. "And we’re not going to put a timetable on it or set a date or put limits on it. When he’s ready, he’ll be ready to go and there’s nothing or anybody that can change that except his body. The medical people are conservative and they’re being very cautious, rightfully so."

The Pistons are counting on Cunningham to be a leader this season, even as a rookie. The 20-year-old is mature beyond his years, but he's a few weeks behind his teammates in terms of practice time. He's become more of an observer as a result. The sooner he returns to action, the sooner that will change.

"Right now it’s tough because he's standing on the sideline going through parts of practice, so he doesn’t feel empowered to speak up or say something," said Casey. "Once he gets out there I think he’ll have the confidence and the right to say something because he knows what’s going on and has a feel for the terminology.

"I see him being one of those vocal guys, but it’s hard now because a guy’s going to look at him and say, 'Hey, you’re not out here sweating, you’re not out here getting hit.' That’ll all take care of itself in time."