Pascal Siakam has been at the forefront of Raptors talk for some time now.
It’s not that surprising. He is their best and most accomplished player and he’s coming off a summer in which he was rumoured to be traded a number of times.
He’s also one of three Raptors in the final year of expiring contracts. There has yet to be a hint of extension talk about any of them.
So chances are the current situation — the one where Siakam is on the tip of every Raptors’ fans tongue — is not going to change much.
Come December, assuming he hasn’t been traded already and James Harden and the 76ers proved in the wee hours of Tuesday morning that could still happen, those rumours will begin anew when the trade deadline chatter starts to heat up.
To his credit, Siakam has not made any of this about him. He has stoically toed the team line accepting on the surface at least everything new head coach Darko Rajakovic has asked of him.
The former focal point of the Raptors offence, Siakam has willingly signed on with the move-the-ball mantra and the .5 second basketball which Rajakovic has brought to Toronto.
It has come at a cost to a lot of what he previously did for this team but Siakam has not said a single word against it.
He wasn’t about to start Tuesday either, even coming off a miserable three-game stretch — all of them losses — that included flushing two winnable games down the toilet.
Those were the losses Friday to Chicago and Monday to Portland.
But it was the game in-between, a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that was perhaps most eye opening from a Siakam standpoint.
In that game, Siakam attempted just eight shots, which even for this season, is extremely low for him.
It opened the door to asking how best Siakam could be used, with even the suggestion that he was being wasted.
In the game that followed, Siakam once again asserted himself getting up 21 shots and finishing with a team-best tying 20 points along with Scottie Barnes in a tough shooting night for most Raptors and an abysmal rebounding night for the team as a whole.
Siakam has been asked about his pending unrestricted free agency and the lack of extension talk for the only all-star on the team. He has continually refused to open that can of worms, suggesting only that he has an agent that he pays very well to handle those things.
Asked yesterday about his uncharacteristic quiet night on Saturday against the Sixers, followed by a more Siakam-looking line on Monday, the two-time all-star and two-time all-NBA player suggested his road was no different than anyone else on the team.
“To me, I want to play the right way,” he said. We’re all in this together, trying to figure it out. And that was one night. It happened, move on, try to make the right play every time down the floor. That’s what we want to be so we’ve got to be able to do that.”
Rather than bemoan his own lack of touches or his own lack of scoring opportunities, he’s talking about what’s best for the team.
“I think obviously I’m figuring (things) out,” he said. “(I’m) trying to find a way to be effective — the abilities that I have on the floor, being able to still explore those within what we’re doing. I think that I’m trying to figure it out, we’re all trying to figure it out as a team.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said. “Everything is new and there’s going to be rough times. As long as we don’t go away from each other during those times I think that we can continue to fight and see it through.”
Now there have been plenty of suggestions — guesses really, because it’s not like Siakam is pushing this narrative — that he is merely playing out the string until he can decide where he would like to land next season.
Again, only he knows that for sure, but every indication he gives publicly goes against that narrative.
In the summer when his name was in trade rumours, Siakam, through his agents, made it known that he wouldn’t be inclined to sign on
long-term with any team that traded for him with just one year left on his deal.
And now rather than pushing his own agenda, he’s fully on board with Rajakovic’s plan, not only backing it on the court but with his words between games as well.
Now we might even believe this horrid start to his ninth year in the league might give Siakam pause and maybe start entertaining the idea of playing elsewhere, but Siakam shut that down as well.
“It’s four games,” Siakam pointed out when asked about staying positive.
“What do you want me to do? We have to continue to work hard. It’s four games, one possession here, one possession there and it’s a different outcome and you guys aren’t asking these questions.
“So we have to stick with it, continue to play hard, continue to trust each other go out there and try to get wins,” he said. “We can talk about all these schemes, but it comes down to one possession here, one possession there, where we get a rebound or whatever and it looks a little different. Or we make more than four threes in a game and it looks a little different.”
We can all have our opinions about what we think might transpire going forward, but Siakam, at least, does not come across like a guy looking for a way out.