After Toronto’s narrow loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals, much of the criticism for the Raptors’ stagnant offense was directed at All-Star forward Pascal Siakam, who was unable to get much of anything going against the Celtics’ dominant wing group.
Siakam scored just 14.8 points per game on 38 percent shooting from the field in the second round, but Raptors President Masai Ujiri told reporters Thursday that while he understands some of the criticism, he thinks it went too far.
“Let’s not forget now, Pascal helped us win a championship,” Ujiri said Thursday.
“He’s gonna bounce back from this, 100%.” – Masai on Pascal
“Let’s not forget now, Pascal helped us win a championship."
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) September 17, 2020
While in the Bubble, Ujiri said the Raptors rallied around Siakam to not let his struggles affect his confidence or his belief in himself. As Ujiri noted, Toronto was perfectly capable with Siakam as a secondary scorer during its 2019 championship run, but was simply not ready to be a No. 1 option following the departure of Kawhi Leonard.
“Sometimes we need this, almost like a kick in the butt,” Ujiri said.
Ujiri on Siakam's struggles: "We talked extensively…Kyle, Fred, those guys did an incredible job, coach, Bobby, everybody stood by Pascal…We all know Pascal. Sometimes we need this, almost like a kick in the butt…He's gonna bounce back 100% from this."
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) September 17, 2020
Even with Siakam’s struggles and the team’s loss in the second round, Ujiri praised the team’s maturity and how each player raised their game in the absence of Leonard (and Danny Green).
“Everybody grew up a notch, and that was incredible,” he said.
While Ujiri and his staff may acknowledge the limitations of Siakam’s game, his growth and that of the whole team is certainly nothing to dismiss. Toronto remained a top team in the East after losing its best player and was a game away from a return to the conference finals.