Pascal Siakam: 'The NBA is a business and we have to move on'

JOHANNESBURG -- Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam is in South Africa to play in his first NBA Africa game, taking place on Saturday between Team Africa and Team World, and the Cameroonian was in a diplomatic mood when discussing the Raptors' newsworthy offseason.

With the focus on the NBA Africa game and the Basketball without Borders camp, Siakam kept it simple on Wednesday when asked about the DeMar DeRozan trade to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, which took the NBA world by surprise.

Siakam told KweséESPN about the impact of the trade on the team: "Every time I talk about it I try to acknowledge the guys, like DeMar, and what they did for Canada. It's definitely unfortunate, but the NBA is a business and we have to move on. He's going to a great organization in San Antonio.

"For the team, we have a great team coming in. We have a new coach [Nick Nurse], who was there before but he's new to us, and we're going to continue to get better. It'll be a process, but we're excited about the season coming in."

The 24-year-old's media training faded for a second when asked about being a part of the Raptors' famous Bench Mob, the group of subs who make a huge impact for the team in support of the starters. While he played in 81 games last season, he only started five.

"Hey! Bench Mob!" he yelled, before calmly adding: "As an NBA player to want to help your team win at any cost, that's my main goal.

"If I'm starting, I'm gonna do that, that's the main goal for me, to be the best player I can be. But being on the bench, I'll be the best I can be and help the team to the best of my ability."

The Cameroonian was much more enthused when discussing the event in Johannesburg, looking back to his own experience as a 'camper' in 2012, when he was discovered by scouts and sent to the US for high school and college.

The New Mexico State University product said of his first NBA Africa experience as an adult: "As an ex-camper, it's a special experience for me and I'm excited."

As for the players he looked up to when he was a camper, he added: "Definitely Luc Mbah a Moute, who is from Cameroon, and Serge Ibaka who is my team-mate now [at the Raptors], and Luol Deng, who is here today.

"Those were the guys I looked at six years ago and they inspired me to believe in myself and work hard."

Siakam's path from Doula to Texas to New Mexico to Canada is as well-known as it was long, but it was worth it: "It was hard, it's a tough journey with a lot of ups and downs. For me, I had to believe in myself, and work hard.

"All African kids should understand that it's not easy but it is possible."