Monday, August 24, 2009
Keep An Eye Out For Cunningham
The Portland Trail Blazers don’t disclose contract terms, so there’s no legitimate way to know how much Dante Cunningham is going to make over the life of his newly signed rookie contract. But the NBA does have a minimum salary, so we know that, if nothing else, Cunningham is doing all right for himself. Material possessions can now be stockpiled. Cars, clothes, jewelry, all within reach. But Dante doesn’t have his mind on shopping after officially becoming a Trail Blazer on Friday. He just wants to get to work.
“I really don’t want much,” said Cunningham. “I just really, really want to play ball. I’m going to bring out my old truck from college out here. I live in a townhouse so I really don’t need much here. It’s kind of a laid back kind of place. You really don’t need to be flashy or anything like that out here.”
True enough, which is why many expect the No. 33rd pick in the 2009 Draft to be a hit with Trail Blazers fans. Cunningham’s no-nonsense, workman like approach to the game is just what this city and team are looking for out of their players, which is one of the reasons he was signed to a multi-year deal last week. It’s that desire to get down to business that has prompted Cunningham to move to Portland more than a month before the start of training camp.
“I got here Wednesday, signed on Friday, found a house Saturday, so I’m moving in today. It’s rolling along right now. Guys are coming in. It’s clicking. I’m liking Portland a whole lot.”
And what’s not to like? After averaging 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in his senior season at Villanova, Cunningham is ready to show he has the skills to not only play in the NBA but to help the young Trail Blazers continue their ascent in the Western Conference.
“This opportunity that I have now, in a great city with a great up-and-coming young team, is a perfect situation,” said Cunningham. “This team is young and talented and very dangerous. We have great leaders here that are hungry and want to win. You could see it last year and hopefully this year we can continue to push and get better.”
Cunningham had a feeling he was going to be offered a contract after averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in the Las Vegas Summer League, but he didn’t want to hang around at home waiting for the phone to ring, so stuck around Vegas for another week to attend Tim Grgurich’s camp.
“I went out there and that was a great experience, being around other NBA guys and NBA coaches, hearing the philosophies on defenses and offenses and stuff like that,” said Cunningham. “I got exposed to a lot of different things, a lot different looks. Then I came back home, had a little time with my family, worked out a whole lot, came up here and now I’m ready to go.”
He’s so ready to go that, when asked about the prospect of rookie hazing, Cunningham, who is currently the only rookie on Portland’s roster, sounded like he was almost looking forward to it.
“Jerryd Bayless talked to me a little bit about it at summer league,” said Cunningham. “He informed on a couple of tricks, who to stay away from. Everyone goes through it. It’s a rite of passage. Hey, I’m ready for it. Hopefully no one gets too crazy, too overboard on me.“
Cunningham might not know what the veterans have in store for him, but he’s not going to spend any time worrying about it. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
“It’s a dream come true. Everything that I’ve worked for, from when I was young and running around playing basketball, not really knowing what I was doing, all the way up to now, it’s been a great journey. I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”