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Trade rumours have been swirling around Pascal Siakam all offseason long, but the Toronto Raptors forward has made it clear he wants to stay with the team that drafted him—even if so-called fans on social media have been giving him a rough time. This and much more was covered in a wide-ranging interview Siakam did with the The New York Times’ Sopan Deb, published this morning.
During the chat, Siakam opened up about the many obstacles he faced during the Raptors’ 2020-21 season, his first on a four-year, $137-million contract. To name a few: the team being cast away in Florida due to pandemic restrictions, contracting COVID-19 himself, his season being cut short by a shoulder injury, the franchise’s first losing record in seven years, and tons of online hate being hurled his way. Siakam revealed that during the Raps’ lacklustre stretch he received several racist epithets online, as well as tasteless comments about his father, who died in a car accident in 2014.
“I’m a really prideful person and I always want to be the best player that I can be, and the bubble wasn’t that. So I get it, I understand it, but also for me what really hurt me is one of those things about my dad or like, ‘Oh, your dad wouldn’t have been proud of this,’” he said.
He admitted that receiving such virtiolic comments affected him, understandably.
“I think for me, just seeing the negativity and all the slanders about me, it just made me feel some type of way, obviously, to be honest,” he said, adding he was avoiding using social media himself. “[…] I didn’t want to know about it, but I heard it was like, racist comments and things like that. For me, those were just the things that were sad about the whole thing.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Siakam addressed his much-publicized outburst against head coach Nick Nurse at a low point during season, for which he received a one-game suspension. He said it was “just an argument” and the two have moved past it.
“This is what happened: It was after a game. I’m just so frustrated,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re losing and I’m just mad I didn’t play and I could’ve really helped my team.’
“And we’re having a losing season and I think those things happen between a coach and a player. Obviously, I probably used language, uh, people use. It is what it is, but I don’t think it was such a big deal because after that situation happened, we talked. We are on good terms.”
Siakam also said he has no hard feelings against the Raptors for his name surfacing so frequently in trade rumours.
“It didn’t bother me really, because I never really heard anything from the Raptors,” he said. “Even all the news I was seeing it was never like: ‘Oh. The Raptors wanted to give up Siakam for this.’ It was always like, ‘The Warriors like Pascal,’ or it was always, ‘The Kings like Pascal,’ or this. There was never nothing where it was like, ‘The Raptors wanted to give away Pascal.’
Ultimately, the Cameroonian forward says he sees himself with the Raptors in the long term, and that, as an underdog, he considers Toronto an ideal fit.
“Coming to Toronto, I always felt like it was a perfect mix. Me and Toronto was always perfect because, OK, I’m international, I love the diversity about being in Toronto,” he said. “I understand being an underdog. Toronto always feels like it’s that underrated type of city. The people always feel like they never get respect from the general American media.”