Si­akam per­fects soc­cer spin on court

The Niagara Falls Review - - Sports - LAURA ARMSTRONG Toronto Star

TORONTO — Pas­cal Si­akam may have patented his spin move on a bas­ket­ball court, but the near un­stop­pable play has its roots on a soc­cer field.

Soc­cer was Si­akam’s first love. In his na­tive Cameroon, it was soc­cer that kids gen­er­ally dreamed of play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, not bas­ket­ball. But Si­akam’s three older brothers and his fa­ther, who was ahead of the curve with dreams of his boys mak­ing the NBA, were bas­ket­ball play­ers and fans, and even­tu­ally the game caught on with the 24-year-old, too.

But Si­akam didn’t leave ev­ery­thing be­hind when he made the switch. The spin that has be­come so in­te­gral to his game this sea­son bears re­sem­blance to a move in soc­cer some­times known as “the Maradona,” named af­ter Ar­gen­tinian great Diego Maradona. It’s a two-footed, 360 de­gree for­ward-mov­ing twirl that was used to pro­pel the mid­fielder past de­fend­ers with ease.

“That’s the soc­cer back­ground,” Si­akam said on Danny Green’s pod­cast In­side the Green Room last week, when chat­ting about the suc­cess of the spin.

He echoed that stance Wed­nes­day night af­ter the Toronto Rap­tors’ 113-102 win over the Philadel­phia 76ers, an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally quiet six-point night for the power for­ward, who has reached dou­ble dig­its in that cat­e­gory 19 of his past 21 games.

“Al­ways, I’ve al­ways done that,” he said. “As long as I re­mem­ber, I al­ways got that.” Even with a ball at his feet?

“All that,” Si­akam said.

The move doesn’t come with­out prac­tice, but af­ter all th­ese years, he has de­vel­oped an in­stinct for it.

“I think my thing is my first step is pretty quick, so it’s hard to re­cover from my first step. And that’s why I can al­ways spin, be­cause I’m (go­ing to) beat you with that first step. (The de­fender) is off bal­ance and it’s hard to re­cover,” he said.

More play­ing time — Si­akam is av­er­ag­ing 29.9 min­utes so far this sea­son as a starter, com­pared to 20.7 min­utes last sea­son with the sec­ond unit — helps, as does con­fi­dence. Si­akam is shoot­ing 77.5 per cent at the rim, 55.7 per cent be­tween three and 10 feet and is 8-for-8 be­tween 10 and 16 feet. His 69.6 two-point field-goal per­cent­age leads the Rap­tors.

The the­atrics have helped bring more at­ten­tion to Si­akam and his game, be­tween land­ing on high­light reels and an uptick in me­dia in­ter­views. But he told re­porters in Cleve­land last week­end that he hasn’t yet no­ticed teams try­ing to take op­por­tu­ni­ties away from him now that he is tak­ing on a big­ger role within the league-lead­ing Toronto team.

For now, though, the fun-lov­ing Si­akam, who goes by the nick­name “Spicy P,” seems to be de­light­ing in the fact that his favourite move is catch­ing fire. He likened it to a “jalapeno in a blender,” when chat­ting with Green and re­cently retweeted a post by a fan com­par­ing the move to a scene in the tele­vi­sion show “The Of­fice” when char­ac­ter Dwight Schrute used a “spin move” of his own to duck by a re­cep­tion­ist and into a meet­ing with be­tween a client and a ri­val sales­per­son.

“That’s funny,” Si­akam com­mented on the video, with a num­ber of laugh­ing emo­jis to boot.

Si­akam seems in­tent on us­ing the move to his full ad­van­tage, as long as it keeps thwart­ing de­fend­ers, which he hopes it does against the Brook­lyn Nets on Fri­day night as he tries to bounce back from an off-game.

“You can pre­dict it some­times, but that doesn’t mean you can stop it.”

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Rap­tors for­ward Pas­cal Si­akam uses the spin to get by op­po­nents and of­ten in po­si­tion for the dunk.

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