Siakam and Raptors now have a return date and Spicy P couldn’t be happier


Pascal Siakam isn’t sure he knows what year it is anymore, but he is aware of one very important change that is coming.

It’s not official yet, but as with most “secrets” in the NBA, this one didn’t stay secret for very long: The NBA is on it’s way back to the hardwood.

Adam Silver will make it all official on Thursday following a board of governors meeting in which a return to play plan will be outlined and, if the whisperings are all true, rubber-stamped.

What we know now, courtesy of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is it will involve 22 teams — the top nine in the East and the top 13 in the West. All 22 will play eight more games to finish off a regular season, but more importantly give the players a runway the players can use to ramp up for playoff run.

Without that build-up, there would be much more concern for injury. Before entering the NBA bubble that will be confined to a section of Orlando’s Disney World for a training camp, teams will gather at locations of their own choosing for their own pre-training camp and then make their way to Orlando.

The eighth and ninth place teams following the completion of the regular season will have a play-in game or games if the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth at the new conclusion of the regular season.

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, teams will be able to eat at restaurants and play golf within the Disney NBA “bubble,” but will still practice social distancing while doing so.

While travel will obviously be negated with this set up, it does pose its own challenges, not the least of which is staying in the same hotel in a confined area within Disney- albeit a luxury one — for up to three consecutive months.

The normal playoff grind — winning 16 games over a two-month period with cross-country travel — is not easy, but at least there is variety. That will be very much lacking for the teams that make it to the very end sometime around Oct. 12.

Siakam was only hearing the details of the re-opening by the time he talked to reporters on Wednesday, so he hadn’t really formed an opinion on the plan one way or the other, but he was sure of one thing.

“I just want to see it unfold a little bit more, have a bit more information about how it’s going to happen and what’s going to be done,” Siakam said. “Maybe I’ll have more then, but obviously it’s good that the NBA is going to be back, that’s the good news.”

And while Siakam has done his work to stay in the best shape one can be in considering he only a couple of weeks ago got access to the team practice court, he’s confident he and his teammates will get there by the time the games begin again, which should be about July 31.

“For me, at the end of the day, I’ll do anything that I can to help my team win and if that’s staying somewhere for three months again, I’m sure I’ll be OK managing it,” he said of his near future in Orlando. “We’ll see, we never know, but I’m trying just to be open and have a good mindset about everything and be positive. Just waiting to hear what’s going to happen and be the plan and do what I can.”

Siakam has very few worries about his own or his team’s readiness to jump back into things. The Raptors were on a nice role when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the league on March 11.

They had just finished up a five-game west coast trip having won the last four on the trip and on the cusp of getting healthy for one of the few times all season.

Then the league shut down and here we are, almost three months later, finally talking about a solid plan to return and actually get a chance to defend the title they won a year ago.

“Obviously you don’t want your season to just go to waste, there’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into the whole season, working hard, I think particularly for us with injuries and everything that we’ve been through, trying to get healthy all season, and working really hard as a team, and beating the odds each and every game,” Siakam said. “Obviously we don’t want to see it end like that, so we want to be able to play and continue to move forward and hopefully that can happen, and we’re excited about attacking that other title.”

Trailing Milwaukee by 61/2 games and three games up on third place Boston, it’s unlikely Toronto’s No. 2 seeding would change before the playoffs begin, but the remaining regular schedule could wind up being a brute all the same.

With eight bottom-feeders eliminated, the next eight opponents on Toronto’s season slog would be Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, the Lakers, Memphis twice and then two against Milwaukee.

The wrinkle in all of this is that by the time the Raptors are supposed to play that second game against Milwaukee, the Bucks will have already played eight games of their remaining schedule.

How that works out will be determined Thursday when Silver officially lays out the entire plan but however it shakes out, Siakam likes his teams’ chances.

“I feel like there’s chemistry there, we’ve been playing for awhile, we’ve been winning championships together, things you don’t really forget,” he said. “So, we hope that when we go back, that period of time we’ll get to have some type of training camp, and if anything was lost we’ll (get) it back. But I feel like we have a pretty solid group and the way we play, we can always find it back once we get out on the floor.”