“It was a discipline thing for an internal matter,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said after his team won its first game of the season. “That’s the decision we went with. We’re just going to keep it at that.”
When asked what message he hoped Siakam’s benching would send to the team, Nurse said, “Just a certain way we want to do things. Everybody has got to be a part of that. It’s just as simple as that.”
While Nurse wouldn’t go into specifics about what led to the decision to bench Siakam, the 26-year-old forward fouled out of Tuesday’s 100-93 loss to the 76ers — Toronto’s third straight loss to open the season, all of which came after the Raptors held double-digit leads — with 25.6 seconds to go, and he immediately walked off the court and into the visiting locker room inside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.
Siakam is expected to return for Toronto’s next game, which is Saturday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. A source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Siakam will not be fined.
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said the decision to bench Siakam was communicated to the team at shootaround Thursday morning.
“This is something that’s not going to linger around,” VanVleet said. “It’s done and over with. [Pascal] was great. He handled it very well. He was a great energy for us on the bench tonight even though he wasn’t played. Can’t wait to get him back out there.”
It’s been a difficult start to the season for Siakam, on the heels of him admitting he wasn’t himself inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Through the first three games this season, Siakam is shooting 39.3% overall and is committing 3.7 turnovers per game.
On Thursday, Toronto was able to pull away in the second half after being tied at halftime, with Norman Powell — who replaced Siakam in the starting lineup — scoring 17 points to go along with four rebounds, two steals, an assist and a block while finishing a game-high plus-28 in 34 minutes.
“Next man up,” Powell said, when asked what his thought process was when he was told he was starting in place of Siakam. “Everything we deal with as a team is always internal, so we deal with that. We understand what happened and why, but we don’t harp on it. We focus on the game, everybody taking advantage of this opportunity being the next man up, going in there, executing the game plan and doing whatever it takes to get that first win. And when Pascal comes back, we still got to come out with that energy, no matter what the role is and how many minutes you play. That energy we played with tonight has to be consistent going forward.”