18 February 2011
We are used to hearing about Dante Cunningham wearing his protective face mask and playing out of position for injury riddled Portland, but hearing his name floated in trade rumors is something new.
Today, Tom Moore with the Burlington County Times and PhillyBurbs.com, noted some recent chatter involving Cunningham and Sixers' power forward/center Marreese Speights and refuting an initial swap which had been discussed between Portland and Philadelphia.
Teams around the league are heavily scouting Cunningham, with one NBA Western Conference scout telling Beyond the Beat recently, that front offices are intrigued by the second year forward out of Villanova, because, "the guy is everywhere and he gets the most out of his size."
The guy is for sure a banger, and Cunningham also knows how to take a shot.
While Portland's front office doesn't appear inclined to move Cunningham, apparently Cunningham is ready to make some move of his own by ditching the face mask he's been wearing over the past week.
Cleveland Cavaliers rookie forward Samardo Samuels hit Cunningham flush on the face with an elbow on Portland's recent road trip resulting in a fractured right orbit. No foul was called, but last week the Blazers called a foul of their own.
Portland sent the footage into the league office for official review, and is still waiting for official word on what the Blazers thought was a dirty play.
"You really don't notice at first, but obviously you are going to have certain blind spots. In practice I'm just trying to turn my head with it more so it's been helping me all the way around," Cunningham told Beyond the Beat.
Rip Hamilton may have made the protective face mask a fashion statement, but some players around the league prefer not to wear them, even for their own safety. LaMarcus Aldridge said he wouldn't wear one after taking a shot from Nene in a game against the Denver Nuggets Aldridge's rookie season.
"It plays games with you," Aldridge said. "I put it on for like the first quarter and never wore it again."
Cunningham has tolerated the mask for his own good, but doesn't plan on sporting once he returns from after the All-Star break.
"It's really not a problem wearing it, and I just have to remember when I'm not wearing it to wipe it off so it fits better," Cunningham started.
"Hopefully I'm going to try and get away from it over the break. We'll see. I may not have to wear it anymore."
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