DETROIT — Cade Cunningham is a gift.
Since the night of the NBA Draft in July, the Pistons' brass has been smiling from ear to ear, marveling over the possibilities of their newest acquisition. The No. 1 overall pick came to them, wrapped in a bow, following the draft lottery.
From his very first interviews, Cunningham endeared himself to Pistons fans with his maturity and his authenticity, appealing to fans of all ages with his polished, but not manufactured, charisma and personality.
Cunningham is the new cool in the Detroit sports landscape. The kind of cool that made Miles Davis a mythical figure during a bygone era. Or Eddie Murphy more recently. Or Beyonce to this generation.
Since the beginning of training camp, backers have been waiting to see Cunningham play. But instead of being able to unwrap their prized gift, they've been stuck holding a gift card. The value is still there, but until Cunningham's cleared to return to play, it's just the promise of a gift, without being able to do much with it.
The Pistons' medical staff is being ultra-cautious with Cunningham's injury, not wanting to rush him back before he's at 100%, especially in the preseason. It's frustrating to have to delay well past the holiday to get to enjoy presents, but Cunningham is worth the wait.
His status for Wednesday's season opener at Little Caesars Arena against the Chicago Bulls is uncertain.
"For me, it's about his health and his longevity. You 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," coach Dwane Casey said Monday. "We want to be cautious and we want to make sure he gets as many of these practices in as he can. It's a day-by-day thing, but we're not going to put a timeline on it; if he's not ready, he's not ready.
"We're not going to put a timetable on it or put limits on it. So, when he's ready, he'll be ready to go and there's nothing or anybody that can change that, except his body."
Preseason has been a waiting game for Cunningham's ankle to heal and for him to be ready to play. When Cunningham is cleared to play is the lingering question. Will it be for the regular-season opener? Maybe on the three-game road trip the following week? Perhaps even later?