In Year 2 as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, Nick Nurse has brought a bit more of an edge to his post. While Nurse didn’t exactly treat his charges with kid gloves last season, he’s been more vocal with the media about what he’s expecting from them this time around.
It started in training camp, continued when he discussed how newcomers weren’t meeting expectations, and on Tuesday, he was blunt about Pascal Siakam’s puzzling propensity to get into foul trouble.
The potential all-star forward is averaging 4.5 fouls per game through six, has fouled out of a pair of contests and had five in two more.
“I mean, he hasn’t been really smart, if you want me to be honest with you,” Nurse said after practice. “Most of those have been fouls. And they’re touch fouls that they’re not calling on everybody and they’re not calling every trip up and down, but if you go back and (rewatch them) you say, ‘Hey, he’s got two hands on him.’ So he’s got to take the two hands off of him and that’s what we’re working on.
“We’re poring over the film. We’re showing him just a little bit and that’s OK. That’s something he can change quickly and I’m expecting him to change it (on Wednesday night when the Raptors host the Sacramento Kings).”
Alarmingly for this gifted a scorer, Siakam has committed two more fouls than he’s drawn.
“I think I’ve gotta be ready a little more, just my readiness defensively and being ready to help.” Siakam said, adding he can’t just be standing up straight, he has to be prepared to adjust to what his opponent is doing without putting his hand out instinctively. “It’s all part of the game, all part of learning, it’s a part of growing and if you guys know me, I’m always about improving and evolving.”
The odd thing, as Nurse pointed out, is Siakam has never been a high-foul player in the past and wasn’t often called for touch fouls.
“I don’t know if I remember him being like this, so I’m not sure why he’s doing it now and I don’t know if it has anything to do with anything other then he needs to knock it off,” Nurse said. “For some reason, all of a sudden he’s picking up two early in games and most of them are silly. It’s not like he’s being put in difficult situations. A lot of them are 30 feet from the basket and he’s just got his hands on (a player). He’s got to adjust.”
Siakam has done that in the past, particularly on offence, so there is no reason to expect he won’t follow through now. He even seems to be looking forward to meeting yet another challenge.
“I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn and by the end of the season I can look at these games and say they prepared me for something bigger,” he said.
“It’s something that’s going on right now and I have to find a way to be better at it. It’s on me. It doesn’t matter what the ref does or what happens. It’s gotta be on me to make sure that I adjust properly to what’s being called out there and that I’m ready to help my team win, and that’s by being on the flour and not fouling out.”
ROTATION TO EXPAND
It sounds like the Raptors will soon expand the team’s rotation. It’s not sustainable to only play eight players a night, not for an 82-game season, and not when there are high expectations for the playoffs. The problem is none of the players deeper on the Toronto roster have really distinguished themselves or cut down on their mistakes enough for Nick Nurse to trust them. Still, he is seeing some progress.
“I think they’re all kind of raising their level a little bit,” Nurse said.
“They’re all trying to carve a niche. They all want to play and they’re all working very hard. You guys see everyday they’re over there and they’re working on their defence. They’re getting there. We’re going to have to use a couple of them here a little bit more regularly soon.”
The Raptors are about to embark on a busy stretch, with a home game on Wednesday, followed by road games out West on Friday, Sunday, Monday, next Wednesday and next Saturday.