2. Rebuild confidence and chemistry
During the shortest off-season in NBA history, the Toronto Raptors lost two integral parts of their championship team: Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. They picked up a couple of new players and temporarily relocated to Tampa with barely any time for them to adapt and adjust to the new changes.
The off-season was short, the team only played three pre-season games, and they’re playing in a whole different environment. The tight condensed schedule doesn’t help either.
“It’s just growing pains, man. It’s a new team, new situation for everybody,” Kyle Lowry told reporters following the team’s Dec. 29 loss to the Philadelphia Sixers. “We’re not all on the same page right now, but we’re working to get towards that.”
Trouble in Tampa?
The chemistry is just not there anymore. The team is struggling and the players have been vocal about their frustrations; losing four out of their first five games has affected the team’s confidence. While the slow start has ignited a sense of urgency in the locker room, it’s also created some tension.
Just minutes before game time, it was reported that Siakam was being benched against the Knicks on Dec. 31. Fans began questioning whether it was because Siakam walked off the court after being fouled out when they faced the Sixers two days earlier, or whether there was a trade incoming.
Although coach Nick Nurse wouldn’t get into details, he stated that the decision was made for disciplinary reasons and internal matters beyond Siakam walking off the court:
"It’s something we’re trying to work out, and work it out early in the season and not let it prolong… There’s certain standards that we want to set and he just needs to get on board with those… It may just be the first part of the process, but he can do it."
Pretty vague, but the last thing that the Toronto Raptors need right now is drama affecting the way that they play.
Siakam hasn’t been himself since March 2020. Fans know it, his teammates know it, and he knows it too. His decision-making hasn’t been the greatest and he often hesitates with the ball, giving up lazy fouls. He hasn’t been playing up to his potential and it’s been frustrating to watch. His confidence has dropped since the bubble, and it shows. Personally, I’d like to see him bounce back and I believe he can. It’s just going to take time.
The team still has a lot to figure out. And with only five games into the season, they still have a lot of time to do so.