After undergoing successful surgery to repair a torn labrum in June, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has his eyes on getting back on the court during the 2021-22 NBA season.
As he gears up to return to Toronto for training camp, Siakam appeared on the Bob McCown Podcast with McCown and co-host John Shannon, where the trio discussed a range of topics, beginning with an update on Siakam's shoulder and his road to recovery.
Siakam provided a positive update on his rehab process, sharing that he is able to do an hour of on-court work daily while maintaining his conditioning around five days a week. The 27-year-old added that the shoulder was the latest setback after a tumultuous year, confirming that he did lose around 15 pounds after contracting COVID-19 during the 2020-21 regular season, but maintained that he is feeling like himself once again.
From there, the hosts asked Siakam about reports of a rift between him and head coach Nick Nurse, to which he painted yet another positive picture.
"I think for me, it's super funny, with all the trade rumours and everything that's going on," Siakam began. "I think that it's easier to hang on to something that kind of feels wrong and run with it … we talked about all these struggles that we had last season, like not being able to win, being away from Toronto and it's frustrating losing.
"Two people that care about winning, you go out there and sometimes you get frustrated, and I think it was nothing more than that, like just being frustrated about not being able to accomplish what we feel like we were capable of doing."
On two separate occasions last season, Siakam and Nurse were reported to have butted heads, with the one-time All-Star placed on the inactive list for an early-season meeting with the New York Knicks and, more recently, sitting the entire fourth quarter of a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in late March.
According to Siakam, the two have cleared the air some time ago: "It was just a disagreement, and we kinda moved past that a long time ago. It's funny to me, watching TV and seeing people still talking about it, it's like this is done. Let's move on, it was one disagreement and we are good and for me, I think, for me and Nick, (and) the whole organization, we're focused on winning.
"We want to get back to who we know we are and I think that's the only thing that's on our minds and I think that it's time for people to let it go"
This perceived rift has been fuel to the fire of trade rumours that have swirled around Siakam throughout this offseason, but according to the 2019 Most Improved Player, there was never a real cause for concern.
"I think with all the trade rumour stuff happening, there was nothing really concrete for me to be alarmed," Siakam stated.
"It was always about 'this team likes Pascal,' or this or that. It was really nothing for me to feel like something was going to happen and if something did happen, I've been around the league a little bit now to know that the business and I understand it.
"I want to be in Toronto and since I got drafted, that connection to the city, to the team, just someone that's an underdog. Someone that literally came from nothing to be where he is right now, like I always have that connection."
Along with Fred VanVleet, Siakam is the elder statesman of the team now that Kyle Lowry is a member of the Miami Heat. Siakam, who penned an emotional goodbye to his former teammate, spoke on Lowry's departure and the leadership lessons he's learned from the six-time All-Star.
"I'm super happy for him," Siakam said. "He's a legend, and obviously we're going to miss him."
"One of the things with (Lowry and DeMar DeRozan) was always wanting to let us be us … for me, I just know how hard he worked, I know that's one thing I can always point out … that's kind of my way of leading … sometimes leading by example is the best way to lead."
With an influx of young talent in Toronto, Siakam plans to impart his leadership by example, doing so alongside VanVleet and OG Anunoby. Along with Chris Boucher, the four are the last remaining members of the Raptors championship team.
Siakam reminded the hosts of that fact when he spoke on what to expect in the upcoming season.
"We have that core - me Fred, OG - we won a championship, we've played big games and we've been at the highest level, we all have something to prove and we all have a level that we can all get to and I think, for me, that's the most important thing, having that core.
"All the young guys that we have, Scottie (Barnes) - just length - I think that's one of the things that they talked about," Siakam continued. "(We have) people that can do multiple things, like we have Chris (Boucher), people that can handle the ball like Dalano (Banton), you name it, they can do it."
With reference to the team's length, Siakam spoke on three very different players in Barnes, Boucher and Banton, who each bring length and specific skillsets to the table. Siakam indicated that is what will make this team unique this upcoming season, but acknowledged it will take some time for things to come together.
"It's going to take a lot of work, and I think it's the type of work that we're willing to put in."
The Raptors open a five-game preseason schedule on Monday, Oct. 4 when they host the Philadelphia 76ers. Siakam, who was given a five-month timetable to return to injury in early June, could return to the floor at some point in November.
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