Pascal Siakim is playing with versatility, showing signs of his old form on the court

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The “Trade Pascal Siakam” crowd has been rather quiet lately.

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It wasn’t that long ago that a significant portion of the Raptors’ vocal social media base tripped over each other by offering various clubs that they could ‘offload’ the Raptor to throughout his career.

Siakam underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and was not on the pitch when the team opened the current campaign. He missed the first 10 games of the season as he rehabilitated the shoulder and prepared it for the grind of another NBA season.

He’s missed three more since, one two games after returning for same shoulder injury management, then two games around Christmas while he was in league health and safety protocols.

There’s no denying that Siakam had some issues over the previous season and a half, dealing first with the COVID isolation and then the effects of that isolation as he and the NBA returned to the Bubble Field in Atlanta.

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The following season spent playing home games in Tampa included a physically exhausting fight with COVID and perhaps most concerning an unusual challenge with management and coaching staff that led to two public clashes with the team and internal suspension.

Siakam has since said that all of this is at some level linked to the impact of the pandemic on his personal and basketball life.

Early on in training camp, when Siakam approached these issues head-on taking responsibility for them and received a spirited public defense from teammate and good friend Fred VanVleet, there was a calm and quiet confidence in the subject of the only current All -star on the Raptor roster. Throughout his rehab period he was a vocal and enthusiastic presence on the bench, traveling with the team when there was no need to just be with them and with them as this young group began. to integrate.

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Once back on the pitch he preached patience as his new club, for the most part, learned his tendencies and tastes on the pitch and he theirs.

Six games after his return, there was the 32-point night in Sacramento, signaling once and for all the return of this essential goalscorer.

But that’s been the last three games – 28 (points), 8 (assists), 6 (rebounds) games. followed by 25-7-19 then 20-7-14 which really cemented the return of Siakam which was never considered as commercial fodder by the fans of the team.

And none of those numbers even address the defensive contributions Siakam makes to a team that, when they return, will first and foremost be the kind of team opponents look down on.

“He does a really good job defensively, keeping multiple positions, providing assistance, going out and keeping the ball in front,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam. “By also bouncing, he was quite assertive on the glass. So there are a lot of positives for other phases of the game other than scoring and assists. “

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Siakam joked yesterday that he even heard people call him Pascal Rodman after the 33 rebounds he managed to put down in the last two games.

But more seriously, Siakam the ultra versatile player becomes even more versatile over the season.

“I know he can score, and I know he can shoot and pass and do some things, and I also know he can defend,” said Nurse. “Like, he’s a really good defender and we have to keep seeing him. And I think it’s been great to see the bounce and finish at the basket and the closing baskets and stuff like that. So he can do a lot of things and we’re starting to see all the phases of it. ”
From Siakam’s perspective, it’s not one thing that has changed, but a number of areas of his life and his game that simultaneously take on their full meaning, making this current period a very good one for him.

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“I think I’ve had a tough year, a lot of injuries and a lot of stuff going on so I’m just thinking, obviously with the shoulder surgery, get my legs under me and keep improving.” , did he declare.

“I was asking the other day if my shoulder is going to be strained all the time because sometimes I feel strained,” he said. “I think over time it’s going to keep loosening and it might be a little tighter than my right shoulder anyway, but I feel like things just keep getting better.

“I feel great, my body feels great and I think I’m taking it one step further by just taking care of my body and making sure I do whatever is right to keep me cool,” he said. he declares. “And just a change in mindset in terms of being a versatile player, I feel like I have that ability and not many players have that ability to defend, pass, rebound and also score.

I (want to be) able to do it at the highest level possible. And just also with my legs under me now, having a little more energy, a little more pushing there and just knowing that I’m able to do anything.
Siakam seems to have already put all the problems he had a year ago behind him. But he is not content to return to the level he has already reached. He wants to reach this next level and this journey is well underway.

mganter@postmedia.com

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