Pascal Siakam’s astronomical growth. A new-age approach to player health oozing with innuendo. We’re down to the two most compelling reasons why Kawhi Leonard is staying in Toronto. By now you know the drill. Sean Woodley and Jay Rosales will share a charming back-and-forth as they try to hone in on the rightful winner. If they reach a standstill, the almighty twitter poll will decide.
First, a look at how each of the still-standing bits of He Stay evidence got here. beginning with the path of the upstart sixth-seed, “Pascal Siakam is Really Good Now.”
And the Vegas favourite coming into the final, Load Management.
Both of these nuggets have knocked off heavyweights. No creamy schedules or fortuitous bracket breaks here. With the exception of maybe Serge Ibaka, whose Elite Eight loss at the hands of Load Management will be documentary fodder years down the line, no members of this field deserve to be playing for all the glory more than the two that made it to the last dance. Let’s begin, shall we?
(6) Pascal Siakam is Really Good Now vs. (2) Load Management
SW: Jay, buddy, what the hell are we supposed to do here.
For the most part during the tourney’s run, I’ve been able to throw a little conviction behind my picks. I’ve had a spine. I haven’t dilly-dallied or straddled the fence or wasted words repeating myself while trying to come up with a concrete winner for each match-up. Here, though, I’m kind of at a loss.
Jay, what’s even your thought process going into this one?
JR: I am just as conviction-less as you. When we started this bracket, I wondered which headline-grabbing, Raptor-fanboying, inject-into-my-veins moment would be crowned winner and definitive reason why Kawhi Leonard is staying in Toronto. Yet, here we are, with two finalists that are NOT highlights, but season-long statements to Kawhi. “You want a long career? Let’s introduce you to this load management program!” “You want a championship? Let’s introduce you to our present/future star, Pascal Siakam!”
How do we possibly choose between these two juggernauts?
SW: I think whether you side with Pascal or managing loads comes down to where you think Kawhi’s priorities lie. Is he more about having a supporting cast that gives him the best possible chance to win, or does his health supersede everything else? Is there a point at which Kawhi would cast the utmost maintenance of his body aside in the interest of winning another title?
The answer to that question feels kind of obvious, no? He had already won a title with San Antonio, the most decorated and critically acclaimed franchise of the last 20 years. A couple more 50 and 60 win seasons followed that title. And yeah, while their older core of champs aged out and were replaced by a less remarkable supporting cast, the Spurs were still gonna be an annual conference finals contender with Leonard in the fold.
All it took for that fruitful relationship to sour and disintegrate was a disagreement over his health. As the reporting suggests, Kawhi wanted a second opinion on his thigh injury, the Spurs didn’t take those concerns to heart, noted seducer of teammate’s wives Tony Parker decided to hurl some shit Kawhi’s way, and now Kawhi plays for the Raptors.
Kawhi’s a health nut, above all else. And the Raptors have accepted and embraced his inner hypochondriac. Zach Lowe, on the latest episode of his podcast, made reference to Kawhi only playing when he wants to. That statement didn’t seem to have a particular lean either way — it was just the damn truth. Kawhi has been treated preferentially this season. Other guys on the team have played through bumps and bruises while Kawhi’s off having his load managed. And I’m sorry, but that’s the way it damn well should be! Not handling Kawhi with extra special care would have made them no better than the Spurs, whose entire ethos places their organization and culture firmly ahead of the desires of the individual. The Raptors entire pitch to Kawhi is about being different than the Spurs. Mission freaking accomplished.
Pascal Siakam is absolutely brilliant. With each game he builds the case that he’s the best right-hand man Kawhi’s gonna find for next season anywhere in the league. But I’m convinced that Siakam could be literally as good as Giannis Antetokounmpo and it wouldn’t matter to Kawhi if Alex McKechnie had dicked around and played hero doctor all year. Load Management isn’t the sexy pick. It doesn’t dunk on the break. It doesn’t hit corner threes at a comically high rate. But it’s the best reason why Kawhi should view Toronto as a viable long-term home. Also, any time he’s out for load management it sounds like he’s taking a night off from yanking it. That’s good fun for everyone.
Jay, do you agree?
JR: Kawhi’s lived a charmed basketball life. He got to play for a Division I school without leaving his hometown. His coach, Steve Fisher, was an all-time great who once coached the Fab Five to consecutive NCAA Finals. Then, his first NBA team was the San An-freaking-tonio Spurs, where he learned the ropes from legends like Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. When he wasn’t receiving the care he needed there, he found his way to a Raptors squad brimming with All-Star talent, excellent leadership, and a top-notch coaching and medical staff! Imagine spoiling all that by going to the Clippers. Anyway, enough beating around the bush.
Since the trade, reality has definitely exceeded expectations. You couldn’t have scripted the Keeping Kawhi campaign any better than it’s played out thus far. What makes this decision so tough is that the finalists lean on each other. With Kawhi sitting out games, Pascal has been able to thrive. Alternatively, Siakam’s improvement has allowed the load management program to work. If the Raptors were 5-17 instead of 17-5 with Kawhi sitting, do you really think Raptors management would allow the program to continue? Getting/keeping Kawhi healthy was only going to pay off if the Raptors also found themselves in a favourable playoff position. They have done that, with a huge assist from Pascal.
Let’s remind ourselves of why this bracket started. If Kawhi decides to re-sign with the Raptors, what will people point to as the main reason? Phrased differently, which of these finalists are more likely to be remembered a couple years down the line? Load management’s become synonymous with Kawhi this year, but who’s to say how long it will last as he gets further removed from his injury. The maturation of Pascal can be viewed as a separate Raptors success story unto itself, independent from Kawhi’s decision entirely. Or it could be viewed years from now as the first step towards the Raps boasting the most terrifying 1-2 punch in the league.
Ultimately, Pascal’s growth feels like something unique, and load management can be replicated for any star around the league. Sean, can Siakam pull off the upset?
SW: It seems only right that we rely on the people to make the final determination. For a final time, let’s go to the poll.
the final of the Ka-Why He’s Staying Bracket goes tomorrow, and we need your help deciding who wins! The matchup:— Sean Woodley (@WoodleySean) April 4, 2019
(6) Pascal Siakam is Really Good Now vs (2) Load Management
Pick the more compelling reason why he’s staying, please and thank you
Well hot damn. We have ourselves an upset, and a champion. Let me state for the record that I think this is wrong, but I am powerless against the will of Jay and The People to overturn it.
“Pascal Siakam is Really Good Now” wins the Ka-Why He’s Staying Tournament.
Come back next March as Pascal defends his title in the Anthony Stay-vis Bracket.