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Pistons need an old head to help Cade Cunningham grow

The Detroit Pistons, led by rookie sensation Cade Cunningham, fell apart again in the third quarter Friday while losing their 11th straight game to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Haven’t we seen this movie before?

The scenario looks something like this. The Pistons look good early in the game, they go up by double-digits, and look like world beaters. Then the ball movement grinds to a halt, the defense no longer pays attention to detail, and the opponent romps to a lopsided victory.

That played out again during a 109-93 loss to the Pelicans.

The Pistons (4-21) are the worst team in the NBA, which is not how this rebuild should work after adding number one draft pick Cade Cunningham to the mix. We expected improvement from the little engine that could Pistons of last season.

But here is the ugly part of a championship build that people like to ignore. On the way to the mountain top teams usually take unfortunate detours.

The Pistons problem is simple, yet complicated at the same time. They are too young and dumb.

Cunningham is trying to figure out his game and figure out the NBA at the same time. He is at his best when he turns into, “Grant Hill Cunningham.”

In other words, he becomes the long and lean guy, who pounds the paint, and be damned about getting knocked to the ground, while taking the ball to the cup.

Cade Cunningham is a smart guy, but he could use a vet in the room who stays in his ear and helps him figure out critical situations on the floor. One guy who comes to mind is Phoenix Suns vet JaVale McGee.

McGee is a 13-year veteran who has bounced around with eight teams. He’s also won three NBA titles – two with the Golden State Warriors and one with the Los Angeles Lakers. You don’t think this man comes with a wealth of knowledge?

In addition to having great knowledge, the 7-foot McGee is a valuable bench player who can give the Pistons punch-less bench some punch.

He is also the son of George Montgomery, a second round pick of the Portland Trailblazers who never played in the league. But he got most of his home schooling from mom Pam McGee, who played at USC and in the WNBA. She was one half of the famous McGee twins. Pam and Paula McGee terrorized girls basketball in the state of Michigan at Flint Northern, going 75-0 and winning two Class A titles.

She won Olympic gold in women’s basketball and played in Brazil, France, Italy and Spain. Following her every step was her little man JaVale and his backpack that he loved to carry around.

The man is a wealth of knowledge and although they play different positions, he could pass that along to Cunningham.

Detroit Pistons rookie, Cade Cunningham
Dec 6, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) shoots over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There is progress with Cunningham. He is figuring out the delicate balance of when to facilitate and when to dictate the offense for the Pistons. Cunningham is a playmaker by nature. However, he probably needs to push his offense more until teammates can catch up.

We’ve seen Cunningham pound his feet to the metal and win games almost by himself. However, that hasn’t been the case lately because of the Pistons second-half slides. This isn’t the first time the Pistons have been in this position. Back in 1982, they were led by a rookie named Isiah Thomas, with young teammates surrounding him.

Guess what? They didn’t know how to win either. Over the years they sprinkled in veterans like Lionel Hollins and David Greenwood. They were not brought in to save the day. Rather, they filled Thomas’ head with knowledge when he needed it.

Cade Cunningham could use a similar old head on the bench.

Follow Foster on Twitter at TerryFosterDet.

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