You don’t become the NBA’s Most Improved Player without putting the work in, and ahead of Tuesday’s blockbuster against the Milwaukee Bucks, Pascal Siakam’s teammates raved about his commitment to getting better.
Siakam has emerged into a legitimate superstar for the Raptors in 2019-20, after winning Most Improved Player and a championship last season. The 25-year-old was named an All-Star Game starter for the first time and is a key reason why the Raptors have thoroughly exceeded all expectations this year, positioned to make another deep run with genuine aspirations of defending the title.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps wrote a profile about Siakam’s dedication to the game, where his teammates gave him glowing reviews.
"He ran the floor every time, and he played so hard," Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said of Siakam’s rookie season. "That was the biggest thing that we loved about Pascal. He didn't care about nothing but being on the floor and helping our team."
"He was always the first one in the gym," Spurs guard and former teammate DeMar DeRozan said. "He always came back to the gym at night. He worked on everything he does now."
Siakam cracked the starting lineup in 2018-19 but he says it wasn’t necessarily one of his goals ahead of what turned out to be a championship season.
"It wasn't like I came in and was like, 'I'm going to be a starter,'" Siakam said. "That was never in my head. It was always about, like, 'I can make sure I come and I'm better and I can handle the ball and I can shoot and I can defend. And, if I can do those things, I will play.'
"I believed in those things and worked to do that, and I knew that if I could do that, there was no reason I should not be playing."
Although Siakam’s rapid ascendance is something to be lauded, Lowry noted that he still stands to improve.
"Playmaking," Lowry said of his teammate’s weaknesses. "Be a little bit better passer. That'll come over time. Running pick-and-rolls, making plays, diming people up."
Averaging 23.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, Siakam is a bonafide superstar who’s only getting better. But if you ask him, he envisioned it all along.
Not to sound arrogant or nothing, but it's like ... you see that coming," Siakam said of his quick ascension through the NBA ranks.
"It's the only reason I'm doing this. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't think it was possible."
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