After winning two of their first three games to open the season, the Pistons have dropped 11 in a row. The 11th game of the losing streak was especially ugly, as the team surrendered a season-high 142 points in Toronto on Sunday and never held a lead in the 29-point defeat.
While head coach Monty Williams has said he’s encouraged by the progress his young team has made behind the scenes, point guard Cade Cunningham expressed displeasure with the Pistons’ effort level and said the club has to “be realistic” about its situation.
“It’s hard to just be like, ‘We’re good, we’re good,’ you know what I’m saying? Because we’re bad,” Cunningham said, per James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. “We have to address that. We have to address what we’re not good at. Address it with not only our words but on the court, in the huddles.”
Williams isn’t wrong that the Pistons have been a little better than their record suggests. Entering Sunday’s action, the team sat dead last in the NBA’s standings, but only had the league’s seventh-worst net rating (-4.8) despite dealing with a handful of injuries to key players, including Bojan Bogdanovic, who has yet to play this season.
That net rating took a hit in Sunday’s blowout loss, however, and Cunningham suggested the team’s compete level in Toronto was “unacceptable.”
“We’re the youngest team in the league, scrapping and clawing for everything,” Cunningham said. “That should be the last thing that needs to be asked of us or talked about; how hard we’re competing. That should be a given. When we wake up in the morning, we should be like, ‘We got to get to the court.’ (Williams) shouldn’t have to ask (about our competitive level). That’s something me and (Isaiah Stewart) are also trying to stay vocal about. Everyone has to come with it.”
As Edwards writes, Cunningham’s comments may be a good thing for the club. The former No. 1 overall pick is the face of the franchise and a leader in the locker room, so if anyone is going to step up and try to jump-start a turnaround, it should be him. According to Edwards, Cunningham and Stewart have helped keep the locker room connected, so there’s no “turmoil and friction” to worry about.
It won’t be easy for the Pistons to end their losing streak on Monday though — on the second end of a back-to-back set, they’ll host the defending-champion Nuggets.