No reason to doubt Raptors’ Siakam will learn from disappointing playoffs


TORONTO – Pascal Siakam’s NBA story is mostly made up of an unlikely triumph over adversity.

By now you probably know this very well.

Born in Douala, Cameroon and the youngest of four brothers who all wanted to fulfill their late father’s dream of playing in the NBA, Siakam didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was 16. and there began his unlikely path to NBA stardom.

He first started in high school where he played at God Academy prep school in Lewisville, Texas, where he got a scholarship to New Mexico State University, although he is relatively unknown. Then be selected 27th overall by the Toronto Raptors in the 2016 NBA Draft where all he did was improve season after season, resulting in a Most Improved Player award in 2019. Which then led to that season where he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career (as a starter no less) and was looking to claim the full four-year and $ 130 million extension he signed before the start of the season, which was scheduled to begin for the 2020-2021 season.

This kind of meteoric rise is virtually unprecedented for an unannounced player like Siakam was and for a while he felt like he could only move forward in his progression over time.

But here’s the fun thing about progression; it doesn’t always work like a nice climb. There will inevitably be hollows here and there.

And so, like any good story, if Siakam is the main protagonist of the Raptors as his big contract suggests, he ultimately had to fail to get back on his feet once more.

“It was tough and I think we just hung onto trying to find ways and at the end of the day obviously I have to be better,” Siakam said after his Raptors fell to the Boston Celtics, 92-87, in a match. 7th of their Eastern Conference semi-final. “It was really a learning moment for me, just to learn from that experience and to learn that you have to be ready and that I haven’t really been able to help my teammates, so, yeah, I take a lot of responsibility, man. ”

Yes, the Raptors’ seemingly endless reign came to an end on Friday night and Siakam rightly identified himself as the main culprit in his team’s end of season on a relative disappointment.

After a regular-season all-star campaign that saw Siakam lead the Raptors averaging 22.9 points per game on 45.3% shots from the field, he severely underperformed in the postseason, with just 17 points per game on average. 39.6% on shooting and a downright putrid mark of 18.9% from a distance of three points, a disastrous line illustrated by his performance in Game 7 on Friday night where he scored just 13 points on 5 of 12 shots. and returned the ball five times.

It just wasn’t good enough for the Raptors. It has severely hampered their ability to achieve their goals this postseason and Siakam knows it.

“At the end of the day, there are no excuses, we are all pros and we have to be prepared and I don’t think it’s anything pressure,” Siakam said. “I just felt like I was not at my best and when I’m at my best this team are amazing and you have to be at your best right now and I felt like I was not. to be.

Maybe hearing Siakam admit it’s a cold comfort to Raptors fans, but if there’s a silver lining to be gleaned in a season cut short, his honesty sure would be.

We admire our sports heroes because they don’t shy away from challenges. They embrace them with all their hearts, and that’s exactly what Siakam plans to do now with more time than he probably anticipated.

“At the end of the day, it’s part of being in this league and being at the level where I’m supposed to be. Obviously it’s a learning experience and like I said a lot of people go through these times, ”Siakam said. “What answer will you get from that?” How are you going to take it? Are you going to take it as a man as an experience or are you just going to feel sorry for yourself? Because at the end of the day, no one will be sorry for you. I come from a background where I always work hard and work my way through whatever was thrown at me and I feel like it was just one more step for me….

“But it’s an experience and all the older ones go through it and we have to learn from it. If you want to be seen as one of the best players you have to be able to come out of those times and that’s something I intend to do.

Strong and encouraging words from Siakam, and given his track record of improvement, there is no doubt about it.

And, at the very least, he can look to his teammates for support as he navigates what has been the first real bump in the road of his NBA career.

“When we got wiped out by the Wizards, I read every article, I read everything that was said about me: good, bad, bad, terrible, great, and I used that as motivation, and that’s what he’s going to do, ”Kyle Lowry said of his teammate after the game. “And that’s the advice I’m going to give him, is that you watch everything, you watch all these moments, and you see who says what, because you’re going to use it as fuel.” Recharge your batteries. And that’s what he’s going to do.

“And for a guy like me, who’s been going through the kinds of things he’s going through right now, he can call me anytime, and I won’t be able to say anything bad to him.” I don’t think he did anything wrong. I think it’s a learning experience. It will only make him a better basketball player, a better man, a better everything. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come back even hungrier and destroying people.

Lowry notoriously averaged just 12.3 points per game and shot 31.6% from the field in that awful 2015 first-round series with Washington he was talking about, but managed to bounce back in a big way to the point where he’s widely regarded. like the best player. in franchise history and an outstanding playoff player.

It wasn’t Siakam’s first time in the postseason, but it was his first time as the team’s No.1 offensive option and it seemed to show it. It doesn’t mean that he can’t learn and grow from this experience like he said.

If anything, as Lowry alluded to, Siakam now fully understands what his limits are and will have a clear off-season game plan to work on the holes in his game.

“What I’m telling him is we have to watch this,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “We kind of put that aside for a little while, but then I think we look at this whole little post-season and then even the season and get down to business.

From this writer’s layman’s perspective, what Siakam probably needs to add are things he just didn’t have enough time to figure out during the playoffs.

For example, a lot has been done about it only having a rotational motion. This is wrong, but he would benefit from adding a more definitive and decisive counter to his signing move so that he knows precisely how he will attack when he goes into the pirouette.

Additionally, and more importantly, Siakam will need to better recognize where the doubles teams are coming from and make a quick decision on how to handle it by splitting it, passing out or maybe even shooting over it. It mostly comes down to experience and Siakam didn’t have much before this season so he should only improve next year.

Finally, and while it might sound blasphemous to those more inclined to analysis, Siakam would benefit greatly from a mid-range game. Knowing he was just looking to pop a three-point pointer or try to reach the basket made it easier for the Celtics to defend themselves. If he had a more refined middle play, he would be much harder coverage. With his length, quickness and athleticism, Siakam could reasonably be operating from the extended free throw line – a la Dirk Nowitzki – and be nearly impossible to watch from there, but it’s just not yet in. her bag.

So go ahead and ridicule and mock Siakam as much as you want because, yes, it’s completely justified right now after he failed to achieve his goal.

But so were Hercules, Superman, Goku, the Avengers, and any other heroes you could think of.

It’s just part of the story, and Siakam’s isn’t over yet – not by far.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here. I didn’t play the way I expected to play, but I still have these high expectations for myself. Like, it doesn’t matter what other people think. For me, I have these expectations for myself because I always saw myself as someone who could be a really good player in this league, and I worked hard. I worked hard every day and put myself in this situation.

“You have to keep learning, and like I said, it’s something that I take with my chin up, I go forward, I keep working hard, I go back, I watch it, I find ways to be better and I learn from that. That’s all I can do. Obviously there are a lot more years in this league and I feel like I can only get back from here.


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