Sophomore Siakam earning big minutes with Raptors with his all-out hustle
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) dribbles towards the basket during first half NBA basketball action against the Washington Wizards in Toronto on Sunday, November 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, November 20, 2017 4:24PM EST
TORONTO -- Late in third quarter Sunday night, Pascal Siakam chased down Washington's Mike Scott, gobbling up the distance with each giant stride.
Siakam reared up behind the surprised Scott, smacking the ball against the glass so hard, it bounced out to nearly the top of the key and into the hands of Jakob Poeltl.
The spirited play earned "block of the night" on NBA.com -- and praise from Siakam's Toronto Raptors teammates.
The Raptors went on to beat the Wizards 100-91 for their sixth victory in seven games, and Siakam, who never takes his foot off the gas, was a big reason why.
"I love him. Pascal is my guy, he is my guy. He's great. The energy he brings, just his presence, his vibe as a person is unbelievable," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said in the post-game dressing room. Siakam, on his way to the showers, poked his head around the corner briefly to listen.
Siakam had a team-high nine rebounds, plus two blocks and two steals, but it's the intangles he brings -- the non-stop hustle -- that the Raptors love.
"That rundown block that he got was just all heart, hustle, toughness and persistence," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "I've said this for the last few weeks that he's playing as well as anybody right now, just with his speed, his heart and his attention to detail."
DeRozan was asked: Does Siakam ever get tired?
"Nah, he don't get tired. I don't understand it," DeRozan said. "Y'all should see him before practice. He's out there doing all types of drills, already sweating and everything. It's crazy to see."
The Raptors drafted the 23-year-old from Cameroon 27th overall in 2016. He started 34 consecutive games early last season after a pre-season injury to Jared Sullinger, but he eventually fell out of the rotation. He starred for Raptors 905, Toronto's G-League affiliate, and earned MVP honours at the G-League final after leading the squad to its first league title.
Parked at the end of the bench through this season's first three games, he was pressed into action after injuries to Jonas Valanciunas and Lucas Nogueira, and now he's back to earning big-time minutes. His 31 minutes logged Sunday were behind only DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
Backup guard Fred VanVleet, who played alongside Siakam with the 905s last season, said it's rare for a player with that kind of athleticism to go hard 100 per cent of the time.
"That's why he's special," VanVleet said. "There are a lot of athletes like him in the NBA, but there are very few that fly around on each possession. His conditioning is great. He doesn't seem to ever get tired. He's literally just out-running people, out-working, flying around. He's got great hands, great instincts."
The six-foot-nine New Mexico State product showed off those hands Sunday -- a pretty bit of tic-tac-toe passing from C.J. Miles to Siakam to Lucas Nogueira, who finished with an easy dunk.
His speed down the floor in transition can translate to easy baskets for the Raptors, as VanVleet learned in their 905 action last season.
Asked if it's tough not to pass to Siakam in transition, VanVleet said: "I'm gonna leave that for (Lowry). I'm turning it over a little bit too much for my liking. Me and him, we've got a bit of a joke going, because Kyle can throw it in the stands and it doesn't really matter, he's got enough possessions to make up for it.
"I see (Siakam) running, and he always tells me I haven't throw him one since (we were with Raptors) 905 last year. I look forward to getting him one soon, the way he runs."
Siakam is the youngest of four brothers, all of whom played NCAA basketball. James Siakam, who's a year older than Pascal, played for the Island Storm of the National Basketball League of Canada last season but was released during training camp in September.
The Raptors are back on the road for three games, beginning Wednesday in New York. They're in Indiana on Friday and Atlanta on Saturday before returning home to host Charlotte on Nov. 29.