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Siakam says tough season put things in perspective

Pascal Siakam is a private person, and questioned whether broadcasting his grand Mother’s Day gesture was a good idea.

But his mom’s tears of joy were worth it, he said.

The Raptors power forward surprised his mom with a lavish new house on Sunday, capturing the touching moment with a video that went viral on social media.

“For me, man, Mom’s been everything to us. My dad being gone, she’s just a superhero, she’s just done it all the time without complaining,” said Siakam, whose siblings convinced him to post the video.

“Just having something special for us, for my family, and having been through a lot of tough things, for me to be able to bring that joy to the family is just such a blessing.”

Siakam’s dad Tchamo died in a car accident in 2014. Siakam was at college in the U.S. and wasn’t able to return to Cameroon for the funeral because of visa issues.

Siakam wouldn’t divulge where the house is, but the joy of the moment was a welcome reprieve in a tough NBA season rocked by COVID-19.

“It was a lot,” he said of the emotional day. “It was hard to know if she was happy or sad. It was just tough. But I just think she was super excited . . . you can see her running around. It was a pretty good moment.”

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With the Raptors facing elimination on Monday night — an Indiana win over Cleveland would officially end their slim chances of a berth in the play-in tournament — Siakam spoke about the tough season, and the growing he’s done on the court and off.

“I hate making excuses but we’ve just been through a lot. Just thinking about the whole season and a lot of ups and downs and things that happened in basketball and outside of basketball.”

The latest down was a shoulder injury suffered in Saturday’s 10-point loss Memphis. Siakam had 18 points before sitting the fourth quarter. He expected more diagnostic testing done Monday.

The 27-year-old is averaging 21.4 points per game on 45.5 per cent shooting from the field in 56 games of a season that saw the Raptors forced to play out of Tampa, and then plummet down the Eastern Conference standings amid a COVID-19 outbreak in March.

“It’s a lot going on and I’ve felt like you go through so much with COVID and the world literally shut down. It’s pretty crazy when you sit down and think about it,” Siakam said. “It just helps you put things in perspective, just knowing what is important and what matters.

“That is one of the things I learned, just knowing who is actually with you and who will support you when things are not going well and who will be there for you. This moment kind of helped me put that in perspective.”

Siakam was blasted by some on social media after he struggled in the NBA bubble last summer in Florida, and he’s received more backlash in recent weeks for missed shots late in games.

He signed a four-year, US$130 million US contract extension in 2019. A contract that big comes with the sometimes harsh glare of the spotlight, a place Siakam said he’s not always comfortable.

“It’s crazy, you get so much more attention and it’s something that I’m not used to and it’s not really me or my character, so I think that it’s just been interesting to manage that and figure out who you wanna be as a person, either on the court or off the court,” Siakam said.

“Obviously . . . I’m super blessed to be in this position.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse is proud of Siakam’s growth off the court. The organization, Nurse said, has staff members that counsel players through life skills like financial management, etc.

“You can see guys maturing and probably make better decisions. But there are so many ups and downs. People make mistakes. You say, ‘Aw, shoot, he finally matured, I can quit worrying about him.’ That’s in all aspects of what everyone does,” Nurse said.

“I was listening to something earlier in the morning and they were saying an NFL football coach gets a call every single day . . . about something off the field or relationships or whatever. You always try to give the best guidance you can. I think our organization puts a tremendous infrastructure in place for that, and you just go from there.”

Siakam, who came up through the team’s G League affiliate Raptors 905, said this was his first losing season in a decade in the sport.

“It’s tough,” he said. “You learn from it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2021.

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