Morning Coffee – Mon, Nov 28

Siakam nearing return to the court | Raptors getting healthier | Nurse sends Barnes cryptic messages

Pascal Siakam is ready to pick up where he left off and the Raptors need him to – The Athletic

It was in the wake of some of that poor play that Siakam decided to speak to his teammates. According to coach Nick Nurse, Siakam asked to address his teammates after a practice late last week, noting that there were plenty of opportunities for some of the Raptors who are usually further down the bench to seize. The message might not be anything revolutionary, but Siakam has talked before about trying to become a more vocal leader.

“I’m never going to do something outside of who I am as a person,” Siakam said. “People watch you. I kind of realized that from the way I go about my business. I always thought that was going to be enough, for me to have people be attentive when you talk. For me, (I didn’t want to be the) main person who feels like your voice is always heard and it feels like, ‘Oh, man, can he shut up?’ kind of thing. It’s just like somebody (who) when he talks, you know that it means something. That’s who I always wanted to be, because that’s me anyway.

“I just thought we’ve been losing. Sometimes the mood is a little off. That’s normal. That’s basketball. We have competitors out there, people that want to win. Our team, we have a lot of injuries, a lot of things happening, it’s easy to get away from the focus of everything. I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that we’re going through things that are not normal. It’s not like we have all our players and everything is great. It’s not good times, but we’ve got to stay together in those moments, when it’s not good times.”

The idea is Siakam will help turn the tide. The Raptors’ defence has taken a major hit while he has been out, with some of the less experienced players unable to correct mistakes as well as Siakam can. After his bravura performance on Saturday night, O.G. Anunoby admitted it is very difficult to take a moment’s break with all three of Siakam, Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa out of the lineup. (Like Siakam, Barnes is listed as questionable for Monday’s game. He’s missed the last two with a knee sprain.)

The offence has been a bigger concern. Siakam was doing a great job of dissecting opposing defences earlier in the year, finding open shooters. That goes beyond his own ability to get to his own shot often. However, the Raptors’ shooting has fallen off a cliff since he’s been out, as they have the worst 3-point accuracy in the league during his absence. Anunoby did fairly well while Siakam was out of the lineup, keeping his true shooting percentage at an acceptable 54.3 despite a huge bump in usage. He also only hit 12 of his 47 3s. Gary Trent is in a 6-for-33 slump. Scottie Barnes is 9-for-31. Chris Boucher is 4-for-27.

Is all of this a matter of direct causation? Of course not. Siakam is the Raptors’ best or second-best playmaker, and his ability to see over the defence allows him to make cross-court passes with more frequency than Fred VanVleet can. It should also allow the Raptors’ other players to operate in more familiar spaces.

The best outcome would be the Raptors sliding Siakam back in, but taking some of what they have learned — especially using Anunoby as a playmaker from the nail or elbow, giving Siakam more opportunities to set up in the corner, from where he is a solid shooter — during his absence to further bolster a questionable half-court offence. They are getting a player back who should make life easier for all of his teammates, and someone who is eager to get back to chasing down his prior goals.

“I’m growing,” Siakam said when asked if he has gotten better at dealing with injuries. “Going through injuries, … it kind of toughens you up. You tend to understand a little bit. I don’t want to go through any of them, but I just felt like I always learned something. And I always want to take the positive. It’s just going to be part of it and you gotta go through it. And if you’re able to get to the other side of it, good things always happen.”

With Pascal Siakam nearing return, how good can this Raptors team be? – Sportsnet

The distance Siakam has come in the space of a year can be seen in how he’s carried himself: since being hurt: making sure he’s present to lead, encourage and lift his teammates.

It’s not a departure from what Siakam brought before. It’s just that his role with the team has evolved as he’s transitioned to veteran status, and he’s embraced the responsibility more fully than ever before.

“I’m never going to do something outside of who I am as a person,” he said after practice Sunday. “I kind of realized that from the way I go about my business. I always thought that was going to be enough for me to have people be attentive when you talk. [I didn’t want to be] … the main person who feels like your voice is always heard and it feels like, ‘Oh, man, can he shut up’ kind of thing. [I want to be] somebody that when he talks, you know that it means something. That’s who I always wanted to be because that’s me anyway. I don’t go around just talking all the time. I think the work and what I do as a player just speaks for itself. Sometimes that does the job more than the talking.”

Earlier in his career, Siakam was seen as reluctant to lead and tended to retreat to himself when adversity struck. He didn’t see providing anything other than an example as being his place.

But now?

This past month the 28-year-old has been seen walking through O.G. Anunoby through finer points of making reads when attacking the basket or gathering or huddling with his teammates to remind them that every injury represents an opportunity in the NBA, and for the club’s reserves to seize the moment; words that resonate coming from a late first-round pick who went from G-League assignee to a maximum contract extension in three seasons.

“I just thought we’ve been losing. Sometimes the mood is a little off,” said Siakam. “That’s normal. That’s basketball. We have competitors out there, people that want to win. Our team, we have a lot of injuries, a lot of things happening, it’s easy to get away from the focus of everything.

“I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that we’re going through things that are not normal. It’s not like we have all our players, and everything is great. It’s not good times, but we’ve got to stay together in those moments … when the good times come, we’re gonna enjoy them as a team. We’ve just gotta know that it’s gonna pass. I think for it to pass we’ve got to stay focused, and focus on ourselves and put the work in, which is the most important thing.”

Pascal Siakam nears Raptors return. In some ways he never left | The Star

For Siakam, a return from an adductor injury would allow him to have a tangible impact on a 10-9 team that’s still going to be without Otto Porter Jr. and Precious Achiuwa. Siakam’s scoring, defence and offensive facilitating were off the charts in the first nine games of the season — 24.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game — and he was a force all over the floor. His absence has been impossible to make up for with one player, but the Raptors have held serve without him and other key players.

Siakam has had a role in that, as well.

He’s been an animated presence on the bench during games — “I saw him dancing … (and) he’s always yelling at the refs; he yells more at the refs when he doesn’t play, obviously, than when he does,” teammate Fred VanVleet said recently — and a constant presence at practice.

He made a little speech to the team after one workout last week, something of a departure for a veteran who’d rather lead by example than words. But he knew what was needed, and who it had to come from.

“Sometimes the mood is a little off,” he said. “That’s normal, that’s basketball. We have competitors out there, people that want to win.

“Our team, we have a lot of injuries, a lot of things happening. It’s easy to get away from the focus of everything. I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that we’re going through things that are not normal. It’s not like we have all our players and everything is great. It’s not good times. But we’ve got to stay together in those moments, when it’s not good times.”

The times are going to get better, and with 63 games left in the regular season there are sure to be more ups and downs for the Raptors to deal with. When Siakam gets back on the court, he’ll be a bit wiser, but still calm.

“Going through injuries also, like, it kind of toughens you up,” he said. “You tend to understand a little bit. I don’t want to go through any of them, but I just felt like I always learned something.

“And I always want to take the positive. Like, it’s just going to be part of it and you’ve got to go do it. And if you’re able to get the other side of it, like, good things always happen.”

Pascal Siakam’s return imminent and much needed by Raptors | Toronto Sun

In his absence, the Raptors gave up an average of four points per 100 possessions more while scoring almost six points per 100 possessions less. Obviously, there were other injuries and illnesses that contributed to that stat over that span, but it’s not even a debate that this team desperately needs its primary scorer and one of its best team defenders back.

Siakam feigned uncertainty when asked when exactly his return is planned but based on the fact that he already has three practices under his belt, at least two of which included contact, it’s a good bet if it’s not Monday, when the Cavaliers pay Toronto a visit, then it will be Wednesday against the Pelicans in New Orleans.

Siakam made it very clear that this little 10-game setback, the result of a wet spot on a basketball court, is not going to alter his season or shake the positive approach he brings to the court every night.

“I was frustrated, obviously, which is normal as a person, but I just a have a lot of goals and ambitions,” Siakam said. “I’ve put a lot of work into what I do and I have all these plans in my head, and I think that, like most of the time, God is like ‘I know you have this plan, but I have my own plans.’ And it always happens that way.

“But the good thing about it is, His plan is better than mine, so I just follow it and I know that I’m always going to come back and after that I’ll be better than I was before,” he said. “It’s always been like that, and I trust it.”

That Siakam went through those doubts when play resumed after the initial wave of the pandemic shut down the league, and then struggled again the following year even before a season-ending shoulder injury, is not the same man who spoke to reporters yesterday following practice.

“Going through injuries, it kind of toughens you up,” he said. “You tend to understand a little bit. I don’t want to go through any of them but I just felt like I always learned something. And I always want to take the positives, it’s just going to be part of it and you’ve got to do it. And if you’re able to get the other side of it, good things always happen.”

Raptors List Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam as Questionable – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors News, Analysis and More

Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, and Dalano Banton all participated in practice Sunday morning and have been listed as questionable to play Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The questionable tag may be a little generous though as Siakam and Barnes may need at least one more game to get healthy, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.

“It looks like we’re getting some guys back. I think it’ll remain to be seen yet once we get to tomorrow who exactly gets back but we’re certainly getting closer,” Nurse said. “They’re moving much better out there so it’s a good sign.”

Barnes’ left knee is “fine,” Nurse said, before characterizing the sophomore forward as “OK” physically.

Siakam had been targeting a return at some point later next week, likely on the road Wednesday in New Orleans or Friday in Brooklyn. He’s been taking part in practice for most of the week but wouldn’t say if he’s good to go for Monday.

Precious Achiuwa and Otto Porter Jr. will both remain out Monday but appear to be getting closer to a return. Porter is no longer wearing a medical walking boot as he works his way back from a dislocated toe. Achiuwa, meanwhile, has been casually shooting around over the past few days though hasn’t begun ramping up toward a return quite yet.

NBA Style Rankings: A Michael Jordan jacket, Corazón de León gear and more – The Athletic

5. Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors

In back-to-back weeks, Trent can do no wrong with his pregame fit. The black pants have “Live Vlone Die Vlone” written into circles, adding detail to what could look like white circles from a distance.

The white jacket with orange designs matches perfectly with the orange Chrome Hearts hat. If Trent keeps up this level of swag, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him in future rankings.

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