Toronto Star

New coach may hold the key for Siakam

Lauded for his creativity, Finch has worked with several elite NBA scorers


There’s a lot new to Pascal Siakam since he last played a serious game of basketball.

A new attitude, more joy and freedom than the stifled, mystified, mentally drained player who had a disappoint­ing run in the NBA playoffs with the Raptors last summer.

A new frontcourt to get used to with no more Marc Gasol and no more Serge Ibaka to feed off, replaced by Aron Baynes and a supporting cast still to be determined.

And a new mind to pick in assistant coach Chris Finch, lauded by Nick Nurse as one of the most creative offensive minds in the game today.

That third “new” thing may become the most important as Siakam seeks to expand his game with more freedom than he might have had with Gasol and Ibaka alongside him.

“We’re going to figure it out,” Siakam said of his relationsh­ip with Finch. “And we’re going to have a lot of conversati­ons and try to figure it out. I think it will go well … (this is) kind of like our side of the ball, we’ll see what we can do.”

If Finch can unlock more facets of Siakam’s game, it will be more than beneficial to the Raptors overall. There are likely to be more frontcourt shots, more playmaking opportunit­ies available for Siakam depending on what Nurse and Finch come up with.

And the coaches have been working long hours scheming and dreaming and drawing up experiment­s in their minds.

“The beautiful thing about having Chris is he’s worked with a number of different guys. From, I don’t know, Zion (Williamson) to AD (Anthony Davis) to (Nikola) Jokic, lots of different guys that are great scorers in the league,” Nurse said.

“So yeah, just talk to him about little tweaks to things … we worked together a lot so a lot of what we do is similar, but just again, talk to him about specifics of how he got certain guys the ball and some of these things we can incorporat­e to our other players, not just Pascal, but other guys as well.”

But it’s Siakam who is a priority for the Raptors because he’s going to continue to be their go-to guy on offence in crunch time. If there are new and improved ways to get him the ball, different spots on the floor he can attack the basket from, everyone will benefit.

“I would say that we’ve been trying to experiment with some different ways to get him the ball, and shots, and downhill a little bit more, instead of just having the ball,” Nurse said. “So moving him off the ball into position … I’d imagine that’s gonna free him up and get him some easy baskets. It looks good so far, some of those things we’re doing.”

Siakam pronounced himself fine with the way camp at St. Leo University is going this week and how he’s getting acclimated to his new frontcourt teammates.

Baynes is kind of a Gasol-Ibaka hybrid — a punishing screensett­er but not the outside shooting threat — and it will take at least a bit of time for Siakam and him to figure out each other’s needs.

So far, though, it seems to be coming along although more

proof will come Saturday when the Raptors kick off their threegame exhibition season in Charlotte.

“I think we’ve just got to learn what to do, make sure to set screens and if there’s rolling or popping for three or whatever you do, you’ve just got to be on the same page and I think that, again, it’s just going to depend on how the offence is played and how we want to continue to attack,” Siakam said.

“I think (in time) we’ll be able to figure that out and I think as we play we’ll understand even more.”

 ??  ?? Pascal Siakam is looking forward to working with new assistant coach Chris Finch as his offensive role expands.
Pascal Siakam is looking forward to working with new assistant coach Chris Finch as his offensive role expands.
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