The ‘Pascal Siakam Revenge Tour’ is on. Blessed with the talent, worked for the improvements, and unleashing the result. Another dominant outing against another team, Siakam is going from arena to arena and dominating. Choose your metaphor: Is he the foundational stage from which the Raptors are able to perform? Is he the methodical and controlling showrunner, placing all the moving pieces? Or simply, the star that everyone comes to see do something special?
There are cases to be made for why someone other than Siakam was selected to the All-Star team, but it’s hard to refute the fact that Adam Silver failed to choose the best player available. The chosen All-Star, LaMelo Ball got front row tickets to Siakam’s performance and was overwhelmed by the experience. Perhaps not a heckler, but someone who came to see if he was “really all that”.
Siakam put Ball center stage, a part of his own performance, and spotlighted the immediate difference in their games. A ghosted screen from Gary Trent Jr. triggered what Ball thought would be a hedge and recover with Miles Bridges. Bridges stuck on Trent Jr. despite Ball’s head snapping back and forth, the desperate waving of his arms was as close as I’ve ever seen to someone’s body language screaming: “help me, for the love of god.”
The help never came. The All-Star in name faced the All-Star in impact. Siakam put him on skates. The first cross swung Ball’s hips wide and his arm reached across to steady himself, then came the body. With Ball scrambling back into the play, Siakam darted to the rim. Siakam felt the contact, but not the resistance. As Ball was plowed backwards he snuck a peak over his shoulder to see if the help-side defense could save him – it couldn’t. As he so often does, Siakam timed his drive according to where the help-side defense was, not his primary.
This was the difference between the two. In the moment where Ball felt most exposed, most seen, he was hardly a consideration for Siakam, who was looking past him to PJ Washington.
Siakam is nearly 2 years removed from his first All-Star berth, wherein he was a starter. No accolades have hit his resume since, and the mountain of insults and slanderous commentary that came his way in that timeframe dwarfs the positives.
“It’s been a rough couple years, but I just feel healthy.” Siakam said. “My shoulder’s feeling better, my body’s feeling good, physically and mentally I’m in a good place… Just having fun out there and really enjoying the game.”
Watching Siakam this past month, resting less than 5 minutes every game and dominating while doing it; seeing the Raptors incredible run of form dovetail with that – it makes it clear what a driving force for winning he is. Every night teams throw the kitchen sink at him, as he deftly sidesteps it. Few players in the NBA get doubled more often. Few players of a similar size pass like he does. Few players of a similar size move like he does. Bridges stands out as one of the most destructive in-game dunkers of the decade – he is the fuel for countless adrenaline filled screams into the microphone from Eric Collins – and Siakam nearly tipped him over with a spin move. Bridges had the hubris to think he could beat Siakam to his spot, a spot Siakam was never going to, and in that way he was as doomed as the doubles are. Siakam is reading the game at such a high level that proactive defense is as pointless as reactive defense.
The questions teams haven’t been able to answer are exactly the ones they have to keep asking themselves. How do we stop him? Is there a defender on the roster that can last in single coverage? If not, how do we double without him picking us apart? One of the core tenets of the NBA’s marketability is for the very best players to be able to come into an arena every night and beat everything the defense throws at them. The helpless feeling a superstar gives an opposing fanbase is the intended function of the sport. Siakam has been delivering that emotion night in and night out, and he looks primed to continue to do so.
Have a blessed day.