Monday night in the NBA offers one of the most highly anticipated matchups this season, featuring the Los Angeles Clippers against the Toronto Raptors. This will be the first time Kawhi Leonard will face his former team, the reigning NBA Champions. He will also square off against his protege, Pascal Siakam who has taken on a leadership role with the team after Leonard left in free agency.
The relationship with Leonard and Siakam is an interesting one, and the young Raptors forward has made strong comments about his former teammate and the impact Leonard had on his game.
Pascal Siakam Talks Kawhi Leonard
The Raptors play back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. Sunday night, the Raptors handed the Lakers a 113-104 loss, despite missing two key players in Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Now, less than 24 hours after the win, the Raptors will be in Staples Center once again for a battle against the Clippers.
As Washington Post’s Ben Golliver detailed, Raptors forward Pascal Siakam spoke in the postgame presser about what he’s learned from Leonard. He said, “His poise and how he doesn’t get rattled. I try to add that to my game.”
Though Siakam only played one season alongside Leonard, it is evident that he learned a few things from him, as he too is now playing at a star-caliber level. Siakam is currently averaging 27.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He is lifting his team up and giving Toronto a sense of security as the defending NBA champions.
The Raptors hold a 7-2 record in the young season and have Siakam essentially filling the Leonard role thus far. Though those are big shoes to fill, Siakam is fitting into them pretty well. As the NBA revealed, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet spoke about Siakam and how he’s played without Leonard.
“There’s not a Kawhi next to him so he gets to shoot a little more, has freedom a little more. Obviously we based everything around Kawhi last year so I think now it’s shifting to being more around Pascal. He’s playing as well as we thought he would and has gotten better each year and we’re seeing that so far this year.”
Siakam was able to pick up a lot by playing beside the two-time finals MVP. Raptors coach Nick Nurse praised Leonard and what he brought to the team and franchise last season, as Shaun Powell of the NBA explained.
“Kawhi was a serious worker, a 9-to-5er. He came in on his off days and worked. And I think Kawhi’s seen some of that in Pascal. I know they worked out this summer together. He’s learned about having a variety of moves and to do a little bit of everything on the floor, the pick and roll, bringing the ball up, play the post, shoot the three a little more. He learned a lot from him on and off the floor.”
Pascal Siakam on Facing Kawhi Leonard & Clippers
Siakam has had the luxury of playing with Kawhi but never against him. Tonight he will get that chance. Siakam spoke about tonight’s matchup with Leonard and said it should be fun to square off with his old running mate.
“I haven’t really had the opportunity to play against him,” Siakam said, “but I definitely had the privilege of playing with him…. It should be fun”
In tonight’s meeting, Leonard won’t only face off against his former team but he will get the chance to see everything his former protege brings to the table. Siakam learned from the best and has a lot to show in tonight’s game. It will be interesting for Kawhi to see a player he watched take major strides forward while matching up against him.