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Pascal Siakam had a tough transition after being traded to Indiana Pacers, but his first practice changed everything

Siakam is adjusting to his new reality

INDIANAPOLIS — Pascal Siakam finally got to practice in his new city on Wednesday. His brother, Christian, played his college basketball at IUPUI, a university in downtown Indianapolis, but Pascal hasn't been to his new home much outside of coming in for games with the Toronto Raptors.

That is just one of the many new realities facing the Pacers star forward. Indiana acquired Siakam in a trade last week, bringing in the two-time All-Star in exchange for two players and three first-round draft picks. It was a massive deal for the blue and gold — Siakam is maybe the most accomplished player the Pacers have ever traded for.

It's also the first time Siakam has ever been traded — and the first time he's had to adjust to a new home. He spent the first seven-plus years of his career as a member of the Toronto Raptors, where he grew from late first round pick to All-Star player to All-NBA forward into NBA champion. He grew as a human, too. Now, he's been relocated from that completely.

"It's been tough. I think the first two days [after] the trade happened I don't think I slept at all," Siakam said after his first home game in Indianapolis on Tuesday. "I'm doing my best and trying to stay ready, get ready every game."

He joined the Pacers on the road last weekend, so there wasn't much practice time available, if any. The 2016 first-round draft pick had to figure out his spot on the team, offensive role, and much more on the fly. It was a difficult transition.

But on Wednesday, much of that got ironed out. The team had a practice altogether that included Siakam, and it was a much-needed session. Indiana had a chance to get their new talent up to speed and make some necessary tweaks.

"I feel more and more comfortable, but I think it's gonna take time," Siakam said of his first practice. He noted that everything just feels so new, which is part of the dramatic transition to a new city. But the veteran forward is a sponge. He likes to learn — and thank goodness for the Pacers he does, because he will be doing a lot of it.

"There's things we need to cover for sure," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of Siakam's first practice. "Very valuable. We need to keep finding these windows of opportunity." 

The 29-year old four man is adjusting to many things. The Pacers play fast, for example, and that requires a mental shift. Their concepts and plays are different from Toronto's. Not only does he have to download some new or tweaked actions, he has to execute them at a rapid speed in game.

That's a big adjustment, but Siakam's affinity for information has made it easier. "It was good. I love being out there on the floor with the guys," Siakam said of his first practice. "I think we got an opportunity to learn even more."

Siakam's production with little tune-up time was impressive. He averaged 17.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game before having sessions in the St Vincent Center with his teammates. He was one of Indiana's best players despite figuring everything out on the go. That speaks to his talent level.

The expectation now is that his numbers, and his general fit, will improve. The Pacers know they need to get Siakam the ball more often, especially with Tyrese Haliburton sidelined, so that he can get going. That's where he can help Indiana most on offense — making plays with the ball.

Beyond that, Siakam wants to bring defense and rebounding to the blue and gold. He is already the best defensive four man Indiana has had since at least 2019, and his mere presence on that end of the floor allows the team to slot into more natural defensive roles. He's been solid on the less glamorous end of the court.

That, too, should improve now that Siakam had a practice session. "I think we'll be a tough team to play against," Siakam said.

The new-look Pacers should be able to accelerate now. Not only is Siakam more comfortable and farther from the tough transition he had upon being traded, but he now has more knowledge of what is required of himself and his teammates to win games with their fresh alignment. It was just one practice, but it will mean a lot going forward.

Success may take a bit of time. The Pacers won their first game after that practice, and Siakam was excellent, but figuring things out doesn't happen overnight. "In reality, it takes a couple of weeks, probably, to get everything completely organized," Carlisle said of guiding a team after a substantial trade. There are system changes, and then comes adjusting the present roster to those changes.

Pacers center Myles Turner has been through that several times with the franchise. He was with Indiana when they sent Paul George to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Turner stuck around as Oladipo was dealt to Houston and Sabonis went to Sacramento in exchange for Tyrese Haliburton. He's seen these big changes many times and knows the adjustments won't happen overnight.

"You have to take patience, but you can't take too much patience," Turner said. "You still have to let things grow organically."

Wednesday's practice will help with that. Siakam is far more comfortable with everything. Once his role is ironed out, everything else can fall into place. Organic tweaks, as Turner alluded to, can happen then.

There may be another adjustment period when Haliburton returns from injury. But Siakam already has a relationship with Indiana's star guard — they already played together once — and he thinks their partnership will be strong.

"Everything I heard from him, people that I talked to, great guy," Siakam said of Haliburton. "Obviously super talented and young. I think he has a bright future ahead of him... I think we can create a lot of problems together."

Once Haliburton returns, there may need to be another practice for everything to fall into place once again. But he and Siakam are smart, talented players. They may continue to crush opponents regardless of their practice time.

It will be easier for Pascal Siakam to gel in many ways for the blue and gold now. He had a whirlwind few days with tons of travel and little sleep after being dealt. But the star forward is settled in with Indiana now, and his first practice was a significant moment for him to both get up to speed and feel more comfortable.