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Pascal Siakam Details Bouncing Back From Emotional Offseason Surgery

Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam explains what it was like to go through his first surgery and what he learned about himself in the process

Pascal Siakam doesn't need any reminder of his own personal strength.

He knows what it's like to be alone, to be sent away from his family to attend seminary school at 11 years old. At this point, he's become accustomed to it, having moved across the globe to pursue his basketball dreams. He's made impossible decisions in life. Back in 2014, he missed his father's funeral in order to remain in the United States and keep his visa status.

And yet, last June, Siakam faced something totally new. For the first time in his life, he was going under the knife, having surgery to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

"I remember... talking to Alex (McKechnie, the Toronto Raptors' Vice President of Player Health and Performance) and he was telling me 'Oh you have to get a surgery,' and it was like my first surgery. Obviously (I was) super scared. I remember crying," Siakam said Sunday. "I don't think I've cried like that since my dad passed away.

This year was supposed to be a bounce-back season for Siakam with an offseason to get back to his All-NBA form. He had big things planned, he said, but surgery and the five-month recovery ruined everything.

"I remember thinking it was the end of the world for me."

But it also taught him something, or at least reminded him of that strength he'd always had.

"I think I took that day and one thing I've learned throughout my whole career and everything I've been through is like nobody is really sorry for you," he said. "I that's the thing people say a lot 'Oh, you got all this money, we don't care, we don't care what you go through.'"

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"I’ve been through a lot, a fair share of hardships in my life," he added. "It once against showed me I’m made of something. Just knowing that it’s gonna be tough, but you have to be strong."

Then came Sunday when Siakam walked out onto the Scotiabank Arena court for the first time this season. He'd tried hard not to make it a big moment, but it was impossible. Toronto's Open Gym crew followed him from his house to the arena. When public address announcer Herbie Kuhn called out his name in the starting lineup Raptors fans erupted in applause as a smile stretched across Siakam's face.

"It's been so long, playing in this arena, and just playing with my teammates and seeing the fans," Siakam said, "it was a great moment."

Even on a minutes restriction, Siakam's return to the lineup was a big difference for Toronto. He roamed freely around the Raptors' switch-everything defense and he helped move the ball offensively for a team that's struggled to score in the half-court this season. 

"I think it's just a reminder for the idiots on Twitter, who have got to beat him for the past two years," Fred VanVleet said. "Like, you have to have some knowledge and some feel and you see him out there and you say, well damn. It’s a reminder. ... He’s a special talent."

It might take a few more games before Siakam is back in his groove again, but Sunday was a huge step forward for a Raptors team that already appears to be heading in the right direction.

Further Reading

Kevin Durant discusses Nick Nurse keeping him up at night & Scottie Barnes' budding potential

Pascal Siakam's return spoiled by Kevin Durant & James Harden

Raptors clear Pascal Siakam to return for Sunday