Detroit Pistons fans gather at LCA to welcome No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham
Jennifer Pottheiser (NBAE/Getty)
It was time for a party Thursday evening and Little Caesars Arena was the perfect place to celebrate.
Detroit Pistons fans walked the concourse about an hour before the start of the NBA Draft and they were in a festive mood, fully expecting the Pistons would use the No. 1 pick on Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham.
Detroit resident Eugene Hall offered advice for Cunningham – even before he was selected.
“Cade Cunningham is a franchise-altering player,” Hall said. “Pistons fans are loyal, they love their players and we’re going to enjoy him when he gets here. We’re going to love him. We love our teams and we’re passionate fans.”
The crowd received its wish when shortly after 8 p.m., the Pistons selected Oklahoma State swingman Cade Cunningham, who is the Pistons’ first overall selection since the franchise picked big man Bob Lanier in 1970.
The crowd erupted when NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Cunningham.
“We got Cade!”
“We got Cade!”
The draft night event was courtesy of presenting sponsor Cintron, a Detroit-based beverage company. Coppercraft Distillery, Michigan-based premium spirits manufacturer, was the supporting sponsor for the event with online casino WynnBET providing free merchandise.
The night was also a culmination of the excitement that’s gripped the franchise and the city since the Pistons won the NBA Draft Lottery on June 22. Since then, interest in the Pistons has grown considerably with the venerable New York Times publishing a story that appeared in Thursday editions.
The excitement is there despite the Pistons finishing with a 20-52 record last season, which put the franchise in place to get the No. 1 pick. General manager Troy Weaver is fueling the excitement after two of three first-round picks from last year’s draft – Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart – earned all-rookie honors.
The top pick has been good for business is up as well, with the organization seeing immediate results following the results of the draft lottery.
“The general excitement about what’s happening, you can feel it in the market and you can feel it when you talk to people,” Pistons chief business officer Mike Zavodsky told the Free Press. “It’s tangible.”
The Detroit market received a Cunningham preview earlier this month when the Pistons hosted him for a predraft visit. He dropped by a Detroit Tigers game where he was serenaded with chants of, “We want Cade!”
Detroit resident Tell Sutton said recalled that evening as a reason he was sold on Cunningham.
“He separated himself from the rest of the class,” Sutton said. “The season that he had, the moves that he does and a guy who gets it off the court. It was clear he enjoyed his earlier visit to Detroit.”
Weaver could have been speaking for all Pistons fans when he addressed the media shortly after the pick.
“I was really excited for the organization, for the city, for us to have this No. 1 pick,” Weaver said. “I just wanted to make sure we did our job, we did our work. People talk about the pressure of it, but the pressure for me was doing the work.