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Pascal Siakam on being 'the guy' for the revamped Raptors

·4 min read
Pascal Siakam now has the contract and the status as the Toronto Raptors' go-to guy. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
After a season of illness, injury and conflict, Siakam is ready to become the leader and go-to guy on a young yet exciting Raptors roster. (Getty)

Pascal Siakam wants to make it clear that he sees himself in Toronto for the long haul.

With the departure of Kyle Lowry, a brand new Toronto Raptors era is about to begin, and Siakam is ready to be the go-to guy on this revamped team.

In an interview with Sopan Deb of The New York Times, Siakam spoke about stepping up in Lowry's absence, and all the turbulence of last season in Florida.

"Kyle was, to me, always the greatest Raptor of all time. I think he was always like, 'I was the guy,'" Siakam told The Times.

"I had the contract, but I never really felt like I was the guy, to be honest. And I think those conversations are happening now."

After earning the title of Most Improved Player in 2019 and winning an NBA Championship with the Raptors that same year, Siakam signed a max contract with the club that will pay him a little more than $136 million over four years.

"For me at that point when I started becoming that person, I just felt like there wasn’t that much level of communication, to be honest," Siakam said. "And that was the only thing really that I felt. It was like, 'We got you the max contract, but are you the guy?' I think that’s something that I was struggling with."

Siakam doesn't hide that he felt the negativity last season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Siakam doesn't hide from discussing the negativity he felt last season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Now that Lowry is officially on his way to the Miami Heat, Siakam has not only the contract but also the keys to the Toronto castle.

The new batch of responsibility comes after a season of illness, injury, hollow trade rumours and conflict — all while playing away from Canada as border restrictions amid the pandemic kept the Raptors in Tampa for the entire 2020-21 season.

As he struggled through the losing campaign, Siakam doesn't hide that the negativity got to him.

"Coming to Toronto, I always felt like it was a perfect mix. Me and Toronto was always perfect because, OK, I’m international, I love the diversity about being in Toronto. I understand being an underdog. Toronto always feels like it’s that underrated type of city. The people always feel like they never get respect from the general American media," he said.

"I think for me, just seeing the negativity and all the slanders about me, it just made me feel some type of way, obviously, to be honest. It was just kind of disappointing and just kind of like, 'Man.' I really did feel like just me going through tough times, it’s not going to change everything, right? I felt like we were connected."

Though it'll take some time to adjust to not having Lowry around, he's kept in touch with his old point guard.

"He was just telling me: 'This is your team. You know, I love you. Everything that we went through,'" Siakam said of his communication with Lowry after he was flipped to the Heat. "And: 'Go ahead and do it. I’ll be watching out and see it.'"

A native of Cameroon, Siakam has played all five of his NBA seasons with the Raptors after being selected 27th overall in 2016. His relationship with the team may have been lacking in communication until now, but it seems to be turning around.

"I think it’s growing, obviously," Siakam told The Times about his relationship with Raptors brass. "Obviously, Masai (Ujiri, Raptors President), we go way back and I’ll always have a ton of respect for Masai and everything that he’s done for (Africa)."

Trade rumours have been silenced and the Raptors are back on home soil. The time seems right for Siakam to complete his transition into Toronto's go-to guy. 

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