I might be able to do this forever. Maybe the gawking will some day get old. Until then, it’s an absolute joy.
Media got let in early this time. We spent about 20 minutes observing the bustle.
There was DJ Wilson and Christian Koloko shooting threes, getting double-teamed in the post, and dunking through two hacking quadragenarians.
You had Precious, alone, with coaches working on a bunch of dribble-combination pull-ups.
Jeff Downtin and Ron Harper Jr. exchanging trey bombs, high-fiving, and pitching words of encouragement to one another.
On the far end, Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton, and Juancho Hernangomez were running multiple shooting drills. Khem working the post; Scottie and OG doing some spot-up threes.
It was an amusement park of basketball drills – if you’re into that sort of thing.
Interviews commenced. And, boy, was it fascinating.
It started with Pascal Siakam. Right off the bat, he gets a question he doesn’t love. Pascal, throughout the interview, was kind and respectful and vibrant. And also blunt. If you’re gonna say something he’s not feeling, he’s gonna let you know.
When asked about his Top 5 comment and what he needs to do to achieve that, Pascal flatly responded, “I don’t think I need to explain myself. I said what I said.”
Damnnn, Pascal. We hear you.
He’s also right. Why? Because everyone else said it for him.
The last two people to participate in the “scrums” were Khem Birch and Rico Hines. With the “halo effect” of Pascal’s responses, the majority of questions orbited around him.
And, honestly, the answers that followed from both Khem and Rico astonished me.
You hear “he works hard” all the time in the league. It’s almost rhetorical now. And I, typically, dismiss those compliments for the simple fact that if you’re in the W/NBA or, anywhere close to those tiers, of course you’ve worked friggin’ hard. There’s just no other way about it. And, for anyone, to question that is ludicrous. We might say, players are “lazy” or never met their full potential, but that just means they worked less hard than others. They’re still elite practitioners.
Then, I heard Khem speak about Pascal. The sincerity and conviction with which Khem spoke kinda toppled me. He was dead serious.
“Pascal’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen – ever,” Khem emphasized, “When he wakes up in the morning, I don’t even think he eats breakfast or stretches. He works out for hours before practice, practices, and then works out for another hour after practice. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
That last sentence, Khem said as soberly as when I tell my dog he’s not getting any more treats. There was not an ounce of hyperbole to it [sometimes I give more treats].
When asked if Pascal can become a true superstar, Khem, without hesitation, said, “He can get there. This dude works hard everyday. I’ve never seen him take a day off. I come inside Saturday, he’s there. Sunday. He’s there.”
Rico, of course, said something similar to Khem. When also asked about Pascal’s habits, Rico admitted, “He’s always had that work ethic, man…sometimes I have to tell him, you know, we can’t come back to the gym.”
It’s not all about hard work. You gotta have the goods to be at Pascal’s level – spike that with a heavy dose of obsession, though, and you’ve got the ingredients of superstar.
Do I think Pascal can be a Top 5 guy, like he suggested? I wouldn’t bet my house on it.
But some other media schmuck probably said something similar when asked if Pascal could ever be All-NBA when Pascal was still a pup in the G-League.
Maybe I should bet my house on it…? I’m no schmuck, am I?
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the best player on the Toronto Raptors is also renown as the hardest worker.
Nearly unprompted, Pascal opined on the challenge of being so hard on himself.
“I want to be perfect. Like it’s hard, I miss a shot and I get mad it’s just like every day I have to hear that, every single day when I work out.”
What Pascal has earned, besides League-wide praise as an All-Star, is the right to cut himself some slack. Even when things aren’t going his way.
That newfound self-respect and patience with oneself [something we all deserve, readers] Pascal attributes to Rico Hines, “I think Rico told me…’you deserve to miss shots because you put the work in…you put more work in than anybody so you deserve sometimes to not have a great game.'”
That’s the kinda of moral quandary I want my team’s best player to have. Should I be hard on myself? Or really hard on myself?
When you hear Khem and Rico, and many others, describe Pascal’s obsessive, perfectionist mentality, you can’t help but think about a guy like Kobe Bryant.
We all know Kobe never forgave himself. That dude was too arrogant and too confident, and too much a killer to ever forgive himself. I don’t think Pascal’s a killer, but to conjure Kobe-type dedication, puts him in rare company.
When asked to compare Pascal’s work ethic to others Rico’s worked with, he listed “Baron Davis”, “Monta Ellis”, “Al Harrington”, and…”Kevin Durant”. Rico concluded, though, that at the top of that reputed list of hoopers is Pascal.
“I put Pascal right at the top of that list, because he is over here early. He’s over here two hours before practice, and he’s in a full sweat – drenched before we even started practice…You know, during the summers, we go three times a day…he’s built for this, man.”
Built for what?
Built for success. That’s what.
And if the last two years of growth are any indication of what Pascal’s hard work can do, we might be on the verge of witnessing something great.
Which makes sense, because, according to Rico, Pascal’s “addicted to being great.”