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Getting Siakam to regain All-Star form would raise Raptors’ ceiling



It’s time to play.

Pascal Siakam has been cleared by his surgeon, cleared by the Raptors and is clear in his mind about the task ahead.

He will be making his return to an NBA floor for the first time after rehabbing off-season shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder.


He confirmed Saturday that he’s good to go on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets at Scotiabank Arena, which will be his first game in Toronto since prior to the pandemic, stretch of more than 600 days, dating back to February of 2020.

“I can’t wait. It definitely sucked just being there watching,” said Siakam after practice at OVO Centre on Saturday. “I wanted to be out there throughout the whole process but I’m excited to be back out there and just be with your teammates and do whatever I can to help.”

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Siakam joins a Raptors team that has exceeded expectations so far this season, posting a 6-4 record through 10 games and establishing themselves as one of the better defensive teams in the league, committing to an aggressive, ball-hawking style which has them leading the NBA in steals and fourth in forced turnovers.

Siakam has had a front-row seat and been animated his support all season.

“I like it man. We have a lot of length and guys that do the same things and … we play hard and we can get after it on defence, and I think that’s gonna be our identity,” said Siakam. “The offence is going to come. we’re gonna figure each other out. We’re gonna get better. But the level of attention to detail on defence and making sure that we use our length and all that is going to be what’s going to make us tough to play games. And I think that’s what we want to be. And I love that.”

Nurse figures adding his leading scorer from the past two seasons and an all-NBA player who broke into the league as a versatile defender should round out his coverage options nicely.


“I think that’s what I’m probably most excited about now is it gives us another really good defending wing in that rotation,” said Nurse. “So you can say well I think it’s nice to say [Sunday against the Nets] Pascal gets a crack at [Nets star Kevin Durant] then, OG, [then] Scottie gets him, there’s three guys instead of two and then one of the other ones maybes gets [James] Harden and you’ve got some size and some foot speed and some others, you know, good defenders all of them so it’s nice to have one more out there for sure.”

What Siakam can do to raise the ceiling of a team that has already raised the floor compared to most pre-season projections is fun to think about.

Siakam had a trying finish to the 2019-20 season, struggling miserably in the bubble and in the playoffs during the Raptors title defence.

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In 2020-21 in Tampa, Siakam started slowly as well and clashed with Nurse, earning a team suspension early in the year for walking off the floor in frustration and later getting into a nasty verbal altercation with his head coach in March as the Raptors season was spiralling.


Both men claim it’s water under the bridge, but the question now is if Siakam can regain the form that made him an all-NBA player two seasons ago.

The rangy forward’s basic numbers were quite positive last season as he averaged 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 45.5 per cent shooting while setting career highs for assists, steals and free throws made and attempted.

If there was an obvious area that suffered it was his three-point shooting. Siakam had evolved from a non-shooter early in his career to someone who could convert at or above the league average from deep on a high volume of attempts. He shot a respectable 35.9 per cent on 6.2 threes per game in 2020-21.

But last season Siakam shot just 29.7 from deep on 6.5 attempts as he shot more threes in transition and off the dribble.

A silver lining of his injury has been Siakam has had lots of time to work on his offensive package. He has been doing on-floor work for nearly four months and with limited restrictions as the injury was to his non-shooting shoulder.


“He looks good out there,” said Nurse. “The numbers [in practice] look great, but you never know. I say this: I think his [shooting] mechanics have become very good; he puts in the time and now he just has to get used to the speed of the game and all of that kind of stuff.

“I would imagine he will shoot the ball a lot better this year than a year ago because I think he does it right. He’s working hard and I think there will be opportunities there. I think he’ll have some good looks this year. I think our offence and spacing and things like that are improving. It still needs some work but it’s improving.”

How many threes has he put up since being able to start training in July?

“I lost count,” Siakam said.

But it hasn’t just been shooting. The time off has allowed him to dive into all elements of his game, combining film study with on-court work. He’s worked closely with Raptors assistant coach Earl Watson on his mid-range game and where to look for passing angles against stacked defences also.


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“I think I got better definitely,” said Siakam. “Just continuing to play out of the post, understanding that most of the time you are going to have three people coming at you [so] you are not going to get to the rim every time. So having that mid-game is one of those things for me, even on my mid-range shot, just trying to get a little bit of lift and yeah, just reading the defence and how teams are playing you and try to score.

“At the end of the day they are going to double-team you and you have to pass out of it, but sometimes you have to figure out a way to score because that’s what great scorers do and I think that’s something I’m learning and I think I’m getting better at.

“Working with Earl, we watch a lot of different people. He would just randomly send me videos and the next day we would come in and talk about it and work on it on the court and just seeing different things. I think he is just opening my eyes to things I probably didn’t even see. It’s been great. Just continue to learn and hopefully, that translates onto to the court.”


We get to find out beginning Sunday.

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2 Key Raiders Are Questionable For Sunday



(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)


Last season was a disaster for the Las Vegas Raiders, as their Super Bowl dreams evaporated into a 6-11 finish, which resulted in them missing the playoffs.

With a 1-2 record so far this season, it’s looking like 2023 may not be an improvement by any means over what took place last season.


The Raiders will be heading south to take on the Los Angeles Chargers, their historic AFC West rivals, this Sunday, and they could be without two of their most important players.

Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and defensive end Maxx Crosby are questionable for Week 4, per ProFootballTalk.

The Raiders acquired Garoppolo during the offseason after deciding to part ways with Derek Carr, who had been their starter under center dating back to his rookie season in 2014.

Garoppolo has always been a steady hand, but so far this season he has thrown six interceptions against five touchdown passes while posting a dismal 81.4 passer rating.


Meanwhile, Crosby has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons, and last year he had 12.5 sacks while leading the NFL with 22 tackles for loss.

Crosby is one of the game’s better pass rushers, and with Chandler Jones already out due to personal reasons, Las Vegas’ defense could be seriously compromised.

Jones had recently gone on a social media tirade against the organization, and on Friday, he was reportedly arrested in Las Vegas.

Pretty soon, the Raiders could start to see their chances of returning to the playoffs slip between their fingers unless they manage to string together some wins.

The post 2 Key Raiders Are Questionable For Sunday appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Bryce Harper Offers His Take On Awful Angel Hernandez Mistake



(Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)


On Thursday, MLB fans saw one of the most egregious calls in recent history.

Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper appeared to check his swing on a 3-2 count, but he wasn’t really close to crossing the plane and actually swinging the bat.


It was ball four and Harper was prepared to go to first base.

However, the chief umpire asked the third base umpire if Harper had swung, and he said he did.

The third base umpire was Ángel Hernández, who has some history with the Phillies.

Harper was furious and went to third base to confront Hernández.

He had to be stopped by his third base coach and even threw his helmet to the stands in anger.


He was ejected.

After the game, reporters talked to him about the play and Harper offered a revealing, yet hilarious chat he had with Hernández.

In case you missed it, here is the replay:

That’s a ball for every person on planet Earth, except for Hernández of course.

As Harper stated, we can all reach that conclusion without the need of a replay.

In fact, watching the replay makes matters much, much worse for the veteran umpire.

The Phillies have already locked up one of the Wild Card spots in the National League, in large part thanks to Harper’s brilliant play.

On Thursday, however, he had to see how the most controversial umpire in MLB directly affected his team again.


The post Bryce Harper Offers His Take On Awful Angel Hernandez Mistake appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Austin Ekeler Gets Honest On His Chances To Play Sunday



(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)


The Los Angeles Chargers finally got their first win of the season in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings, but their outlook is still looking pretty bleak right now.

In that contest, they lost stud wide receiver Mike Williams to an ACL injury, and he will thus miss the rest of the season.


In addition, star safety Derwin James Jr. had to exit the game with a hamstring injury and is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s tilt against the Las Vegas Raiders, as is running back Austin Ekeler.

Ekeler, per Bridget Condon, says it will be decided shortly before kickoff on Sunday whether he will play.

Ekeler has been out for the last two games with an ankle injury, and it has been a big blow to the Chargers’ prospects.

While he has never made the Pro Bowl, he has led the NFL in total rushing and receiving touchdowns each of the last two seasons, and last year he put up 915 yards on the ground and 722 yards in the air.

Ekeler is arguably Los Angeles’ biggest weapon, and it will have to be an all-hands-on-deck effort for them if he’s unable to play in Week 4.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen has stepped up with 32 catches, 402 yards, and two touchdowns through three games, and he leads the league in receptions while ranking third in receiving yards.

The Chargers always seem to be the recipient of bad fortune, and they could badly use some good luck on the injury front in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.


The post Austin Ekeler Gets Honest On His Chances To Play Sunday appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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