Pascal Siakam had a strong year with the Indiana Pacers thanks to 'incredible' support

Siakam averaged more than 21 points and seven rebounds per game
Jan 19, 2024; Portland, Oregon, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives to the basket against Portland Trail Blazers point guard Malcolm Brogdon (11) during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2024; Portland, Oregon, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives to the basket against Portland Trail Blazers point guard Malcolm Brogdon (11) during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports / Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Pascal Siakam gives his all to where he is. The Indiana Pacers forward was only in the Circle City for 41 games this past season, but he poured his soul into all of them.

That wasn't easy. While Siakam is someone who connects with people quickly and values a simple life, getting traded from the Toronto Raptors was difficult. He loved Toronto and cherished the effort he put forth into becoming an excellent player for the franchise. The 30-year old won a title up North. He was an All-Star twice and made an All-NBA team just as often. His entire career came with the Raptors prior to this season. Leaving that was mentally taxing.

"For me, obviously it's been a crazy year. I came from a place where I thought I was going to spend the rest of my career," Siakam said during his end-of-season exit interview. He paused between most of his sentences as he thought about the deal. Without the star forward, Indiana wouldn't have reached the Eastern Conference Finals. His leadership and play were vital. The success helped Siakam feel more at home.

But it wasn't trivial. "I ended up leaving there, and it's been hard. I'm a pretty positive person and I have a lot of support from my family, but it's been tough just going through everything and leaving in the middle of the season and going through it mentally and physically," he said. Leaving Toronto was a long-rumored path for Siakam, and it made all the sense in the world for the Pacers and Raptors to make a trade from a business perspective. But it was still hard for the talented forward.

Once the deal was done, it was on Indiana to make sure Siakam felt supported and included in his new home. They needed to make their new star have few doubts about his long-term outlook in a blue and gold uniform. His fit as a basketball player was sublime and took little time to show up with the Pacers. Behind the scenes, everyone in Indianapolis hoped to make the off-court fit just as snug.

The team got better every day. Siakam noticed. They were ascending when he got to Indiana, and they were among the best teams in the Eastern Conference by the time their season ended. He was a part of that growth, and as his basketball fit improved, so did his feelings behind the scenes.

"And then landing here, the support from the first day has been incredible. I couldn't really ask for anything better just in terms of support from the first day I got here," Siakam said. He named President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard and General Manager Chad Buchanan by name. He praised the coaching staff. For a player going through his first trade in the NBA, the Pacers made it all simple for Siakam.

In many games, that comfort was obvious. He continued to get better with the franchise, then in mid March his two-man game with star guard Tyrese Haliburton took massive strides. That helped the Pacers get wins, and it proved to be important come playoff time.

Those postseason moments are when Siakam shined. One of Indiana's two road wins in the postseason came on Siakam's back in Milwaukee. He forced the Bucks to change their coverages, but Indiana still rolled through the series. In the second round, he terrorized the OG Anunoby-less New York Knicks. He was reliable against the Boston Celtics when few others were.

His leadership mattered the whole time. He kept the team from getting too high or too low during key stretches. Siakam matched that locker room role with terrific play. In the postseason, he averaged 21.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on consistent shooting — he shot 54.1% in the playoffs.

In the regular season, he was just as good. Indiana doesn't finish 47-35 without the star forward. They battled down the stretch of the season and supported Siakam with a fitting role while showing him how much he mattered.

"So much love and support. Coming from where I can from, I've sacrificed so much in a place, and I think after you have that kind of breakup, it's hard. It's tough. And then you come into here, and I think without that support, I don't know how I would have been able to do it," Siakam said. "I'm so grateful and happy that I came in a place where you just feel so supported and you feel like you're needed, you feel like you matter. As a player, that's really all you can ask for."

In a city that Siakam said lives and breathes basketball, the way the Pacers made him feel was vital. He was appreciated and valued. As he enters free agency, those moments and emotions are important. So far, reporting suggests there is mutual interest between Siakam and the Pacers on a new deal. Both Siakam and the Pacers have discussed how they envision free agency going.

The support Siakam received from the Pacers will go a long way in free agency. "I'm blessed to be able to be here and have the season that we had," he said. He is eligible for a five-year deal worth over $240 million this offseason.

Siakam knows how hard it is for a team to reach the Eastern Conference Finals and possibly make it back. It's not a guarantee. He also knows that the squad has to get better. For the team to build and make it to that point again, Siakam has to be on Indiana's roster.

The support he received during the season makes that more likely. Siakam may not have been able to be himself without it. As a result, the Pacers had short-term success, and it could turn into long-term winning.


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Published
Tony East

TONY EAST

Tony East is the Publisher of AllPacers. He has previously written for Forbes Sports, the West Indianapolis Community News, WTHR, and more while hosting the Locked On Pacers podcast.