Every weekday, SI’s Chris Mannix will check-in with his Bubble Bits, a quick hit on something notable from inside the NBA’s campus
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – What’s wrong with Pascal Siakam?
Is anything wrong with Siakam?
These were the questions I had on Tuesday, when I wandered over to the Raptors practice. You know the story: Siakam entered the bubble as one of the postseason’s biggest wild cards. With Kawhi Leonard gone, Siakam needed to assume a more significant playoff role. Fans said it. Media said it. His own coach said it. Siakam appeared ready for that role pre-pandemic, rising to All-Star level and (briefly) jumping into the MVP discussion.
In the bubble, Siakam has looked out of sorts. His shooting percentage (39.4%) dipped. His free throw percentage, too. In a Game 1 blowout against Brooklyn, Siakam was 4-13 from the floor—and 1-4 from beyond the arc.
On Tuesday, after his Zoom call with reporter, I asked Nick Nurse: Was Siakam pressing?
“The tempo he is playing at I’m not crazy about,” Nurse told me. “He’s got opportunities right when he gets the ball and he’s hesitant to play on the catch. He’s letting the defense reload on him. He’s got to get back to being more of a fast-type player. He’s overanalyzing a little bit. Which is OK—there are times when he has got to analyze what’s happening, with where is the double coming from, where is the help coming from. I think if he wants to get easier chances, he has to play faster.”
Will Nurse try anything differently in Game 2 to get Siakam going?
“There are some opportunities there for him that we hope to get going,” Nurse said. “But we’re not really that worried about it. It’s not like he has to score … and he had enough opportunities within the flow of the game yesterday that he probably didn’t take advantage of. I don’t want to make too big a deal about it.”
As Nurse says—there’s no panic in Toronto. “We haven’t been ‘Oh, Pascal, you’re going to be all right,’” Norman Powell said. “We think he’s going to be fine … the shots he’s taking are the same shots he’s made.”
Toronto, improbably, is a legitimate title contender. They have a wealth of firepower and a championship level commitment to defense. Siakam, though, is arguably the Raptors most important player. Toronto may not need him to be great in this series—but in the ones to come, they will.