The Undefeated previously have NBA diaries with Golden State Warriors striker Draymond Green, former NBA star and dunk champion Vince Carter, Atlanta Hawks Guard Trae Young, Warriors Center James Wiseman, Toronto Raptors Guard Fred VanVleet, Sacramento Kings Guard De ‘ Aaron Fox and Detroit produced Pistons Guard Josh Jackson. There’s a diary this season with Cade Cunningham, number 1 in the Pistons’ 2021 NBA Draft.
Over the course of this diary, the 20-year-old takes the reader through the triumphs, challenges, and fun associated with being the best choice on and off the pitch. The native of Arlington, Texas, is not only a potential NBA star, but also the father of a soon-to-be three-year-old daughter.
The former Oklahoma State star spoke to The Undefeated about his third diary entry Tuesday morning, two days before becoming one of nearly 100 players entering the NBA’s COVID protocols. Cunningham has been thinking about playing better lately – averaging 17.9 points, 6.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds, while shooting 40.4% out of 3-point range in December – the holidays , his daughter’s upcoming birthday and yes, COVID-19.
“There’s no feeling like losing”
Most of all, the key to my game now was that it was time to let go. I didn’t hold onto all of the emotions of not playing as well as I started or just losing games. I just decided to let it go and just play freely. Play the game i love. Try to have fun with it. That is the main thing.
At first I kind of put too much pressure on to acclimate myself. But now I feel good. I’m in my groove now so all is well. The breakthrough that I really needed was the Portland game. Just feeling like you’re shooting the ball knowing everyone is going in. Most of the time I went to college I had really good feel for the ball. But when I first got to the Pistons and got injured, that feeling was different for me. I got some shots after that Portland game, stuff like that. That was the turning point.
Obviously it’s hard to lose Jerami because he was a big part of our team. I went to put that on my shoulders and I knew I had to step up. It’s a new role for me, but I’m happy to be in that role. That losing streak of 14 games we just had was definitely different. It tests you mentally more than anything to just be able to come back locked up the next day and go out again and try to win.
It was definitely tough, but we stuck together. We tried to keep our spirits up, we tried to get out and play hard every night. There is no feeling like losing. We had this sour taste in our mouths for a while so it felt good to get a win. And now it’s a matter of building on that.
Cade Cunningham Diary: “I’m the kind of person who gets better every day”
The high number of players getting COVID is definitely scary. You have to protect yourself from that. The new omicron variant can now be seen in the league. I try not to miss any games. I’m just trying to stop that mask, know who I am, and just be smart about moving around and going out in public.
We didn’t really bring new guys or anything into the game to fill management positions. We haven’t had any cases. I’ve heard of that [COVID-19] Problems in Michigan. So these are just more reasons to hold up the mask, stay inside, and know who’s around.
I actually met Kevin Durant in high school. We have been in contact ever since. I spoke to him about college. Playing against him recently was super cool. Having someone like that to yell at is super cool. He said to me, ‘Most of all, just keep working.’ He’s a real fitness rat. Often you hear “continue working”. It’s almost like, ‘How are you?’ and people say, ‘Good.’
Everyone says somehow, ‘Keep working.’ But he means it more seriously and [it’s] why he got to where he is. It’s just something I try to do and see that in my game.
“She is super young, but she is quite understanding”
We leave on Christmas Day to go to San Antonio and play the next day. My family recently went to Detroit. We go home to San Antonio for two days. I just let everyone come to Detroit to celebrate Christmas in early January when we have another home stretch.
I won’t see my daughter at Christmas because we will be flying, but I will FaceTime her. That is hard. I wish I had been there for all of these early moments, holidays and things like that. I wish I could see the excitement on her face about her gifts and things like that. She’s super young, but she’s pretty understanding. She knows what’s going on. It just gives me extra motivation to know that I have to make these sacrifices now. But I do it for the best for the family and more than anything.
Cade Cunningham Diary: “If I can get the NBA Rookie of the Year trophy, I would of course love it”
I gave my daughter a few online gifts for Christmas. A bunch of dolls. Got her a small scooter. A pogo stick. I have all kinds of manger-related things for her. I just moved into my house in Detroit so she didn’t really have anything to play with at home. Now she’s going to be straight … I’m just looking forward to the holidays.
Really man. This is one of my favorite times of the year so I’m excited. My daughter’s birthday is just around the corner. It’s just after Christmas, so we have a couple of holidays in a row. It will be fun. It’s a good time December 29th. I have to recharge them. Gotta do that.
Of course, I set myself goals. The whole time. I don’t just use them as a New Year’s Eve resolution. But I set myself new goals all year round and give them deadlines as to when I need to achieve some of the things. On the pitch, I just want to be more defensive and watch the ball. These two things will help me a lot.
Then off the pitch, being a better teammate, communicating better when it comes to text messages and calls, that sort of thing. Then just being the best father I can be, best brother, best son.
Marc J. Spears is the lead NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dive in on you, but he hasn’t done it in years and his knees still hurt.