#Reading between the lines, that seems to be what is at the heart of the mini controversy surrounding franchise cornerstone #Pascal #Siakam as the club’s dismal opening to the 2020-21 season continues.
#Siakam returned to the starting lineup after being surprisingly benched against the #New #York #Knicks for disciplinary reasons on #New #Years #Eve, but his struggles on the pitch remained – as did the #Raptors’ struggles as a collective. .
#Siakam hasn’t played well and hasn’t played well for a while.
#Finding a way to break that cycle is as good an explanation as any, and the #Raptors head coach said it before putting #Siakam back in the lineup for #Saturday night against the #New #Orleans #Pelicans. .
“I think he gets a lot of his particularity in this league from his speed, playing hard, playing with a joy for the game,” said #Nurse. “#And I think defensively he’s a hell of a player when he thinks about it. #So I think that’s probably where it starts.
#Perhaps if #Siakam had rolled, some indiscretions would be overlooked or go uncommented. #But since playing below average to poor basketball since resuming the NBA in #August, tolerance is limited.
The issue remains at the center of attention after the #Raptors were beaten 120-116 by the #New #Orleans #Pelicans on #Saturday night to drop #Toronto to 1-4, their worst start since going 0-9 in 2005-06 . #In this fast-shooting season, the #Raptors will need to figure it out quickly as they host the #Boston #Celtics on #Monday night in #Tampa before heading west for a four-game road swing.
#It was during #Toronto’s seven-game second-round loss to the #Celtics that #Siakam’s bad play became too obvious to ignore.
The fact that his game does not appear to be returning to his pre-break standards – even after a carefully calibrated off-season diet – must be of concern.
#And #Siakam’s woes continue along with those of the team. #He finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three turnovers, as big struggles limited him to just 25 minutes before ending his night in earnest with 8:30 a.m. left in the fourth quarter.
#It was his decision to step off the bench and go to the locker room after a foul against the #Philadelphia 76ers on #Tuesday that prompted his bench by the nurse – with management approval.
#Details around the decision remain slim, other than there is no dramatic backstory, sources insist. #Siakam remained on the script when he spoke to reporters on #Saturday for the first time since being left out of the roster.
“I spoke to the team, spoke to [Raptors general manager Bobby Webster and president Masai Ujiri], spoke to my teammates, I think we are going to keep talking about it and we are just trying to find a way to keep winning, ”said #Siakam. “#We are a winning team and losing is not acceptable. I think that’s what we’re focusing on right now and just trying to keep improving as a team. #For me, everything has been discussed and we are moving forward.
There were no fireworks on #Saturday night, but #Siakam’s performance still left something to be desired.
“He struggled, without a doubt,” #Nurse said. “#I thought he had some decent games and some good records in there, but he obviously struggled, [was a] a half-countdown there at both ends a bit, which gets him in trouble and doesn’t allow him to complete some games on the offensive side.
#It’s a big problem. #Siakam is counted on to be the #Raptors’ second best player at worst after #Kyle #Lowry almost every night. #It’s a tall order, but he made up for the problem well, and what is concerning is his performance in his last three games – 15.3 points on 36% shots, with 10 turnovers and only six trips to the free throw line – that’s too much. similar to how he performed after the restart, and in the playoffs for #Toronto and against #Boston, in particular.
The pressure is mounting.
“#It’s not just him, it’s the whole team,” said #Raptors guard #Fred #VanVleet, who led the team for the second straight game with 27 points and five assists. “##And that’s just the feel of this team is… like tonight, for example, I thought we fought hard enough, we played well enough to win in spurts, not in the whole game, but we’re in a hole, so it hurts a lot more than if we were 4-0 or whatever our record. #Do you know what I’m saying?
The #Raptors were leading 60-55 at the half, but the #Pelicans were pulling them in in the fourth quarter when #Toronto contested a 14-2 run over a two-minute streak – punctuated by a #Lowry layup that gave the #Raptors a 113-111 lead with 2:47 to go.
#But the race stalled, canceled by a pair of turnovers. The #Pelicans managed to wrap up the #Raptors with a pair of free throws from #Brandon #Ingram – #New #Orleans’ 22nd and 23rd points on the line in the fourth quarter.
“#If it was a classic loss, we would just hand them over and get on the plane,” #VanVleet said. “##But once you get into that hole, everyone [loss] you feel it more and more and I think #Pascal is just trying to get out of it. #And I’m convinced he will, and I don’t think he played so badly tonight, but he just wasn’t in the game with fouls and just out of the game’s pace. #But he will be fine.
The #Raptors didn’t come here by accident. #Against the young but gifted #Pelicans, the #Raptors were pushed the way bigger and better teams tend to do their little ones: they lost the battle on the offensive glass, 15-10; they saw the #Pelicans take 47 free throws – and 28 in the fourth quarter alone – to 27 for the #Raptors; and they lost the battle of young star players, as #Brandan #Ingram won 31 points on 17 shots.
#Meanwhile, #Siakam doesn’t look much like the energetic player who went from a late and late draft pick in the first round to an all-star in his fourth season a year ago.
#He picked up two fouls early in the second quarter and his body language suggested a frustrated, almost exasperated player.
#To be at his best, he says he has to play with joy – something that went away after being locked in #Toronto during the pandemic, then struggled hard with his conditioning and playing in the bubble.
#It’s still a struggle now, and being a dastardly magnet doesn’t help.
“Obviously if you have two fouls in about two minutes in the first half it’s pretty hard to be aggressive and want to do things a certain way and you don’t want to get that third foul or whatever the case, ”#Siakam said. “##But it is difficult. #When it’s a fault, you really want to feel like you’re fouling someone. A touch here and there, it’s really hard when you get a call from these and again we have to get better, I have to get better. I can’t be out of the game at this point, therefore.
#And what can you do to get to the line more than twice per game, he has been asked.
“That’s a great question. I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m trying to figure this out.
#But as he finds out, #Nurse distributes a tough love – perhaps to remind #Siakam that he has worked his way through the league playing with energy, speed and a sense of opportunism on both sides. The burden of being a first option and missing at times seems to undermine other parts of her game and the nurse won’t get it, seems to be the message.
#That at least explains what was a pretty harsh punishment for a fairly minor sin. #Other players have done a lot more and have gone unpunished in a basketball setting, and the #Raptors continue to dress and play #Terence #Davis, who faces seven charges related to an alleged domestic violence incident during the off season.
#But #Nurse wasn’t willing to ignore #Siakam’s misstep, nor was he keen to eliminate him when asked about it ahead of the #Pelicans game.
“Look, it’s just something that we’re trying to work on a bit here and sort it out at the start of the season and not let it drag on,” #Nurse said. “#And, again, it’s more just an expectation of how we want to play, not individually how everyone wants to play. #But there are certain standards that we want to set and he just needs to accept them. #And he can do it, damn it, he can do it, maybe that’s the first part of the process, but he can do it. ”
#Considering the way things have gone over the course of five games, the #Raptors need #Siakam to figure it out – the faster the better.