Pacers’ Rick Carlisle says it's important to 'begin recruiting Pascal Siakam in earnest'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Since they acquired him from the Raptors in January, the Pacers have been making an obvious implicit sales pitch to Pascal Siakam with free agency looming when the league calendar flips over at the end of June. With the season now over, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said at his exit interview on Tuesday that they will make that sales pitch more overt.

"The first very important step is to begin recruiting Pascal Siakam in earnest," Carlisle said when asked what the Pacers would have to do to build on their run to the Eastern Conference finals. "That will start today with exit meetings. He's a great player. He was tremendous for us. The acquisition of him in late January really was a key enabler for us to not only make the playoffs but be able to advance in the playoffs. That's something you simply cannot take for granted. You trade for a guy, he has a good experience, but you gotta let him know how important he is. We've been doing it all along, really, but today is more of a, 'Hey, you're our guy.'"

The Pacers inherit Siakam's Larry Bird rights, which allows them to offer a five-year contract when everyone else can offer only a four-year deal. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Tuesday that the Pacers intend to offer him a max contract worth 30% of the salary cap, which would start at approximately $42 million per year.

Contract terms, more: Which Pacers players are eligible for NBA free agency in 2024?

Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan said he could not say whether or not Indiana would extend Siakam a max contract but echoed Carlisle's appreciation for Siakam's production.

"I don't want to get too much into the contract stuff," Buchanan said. "But Pascal was a great fit. Obviously we targeted him in the trade and have liked him for a long time. I thought he came in and was a tremendous piece to the puzzle for us and had major impact for the team, on the court and in the locker room. He's a great fit. His personality, his leadership, his experience was very valuable to a lot of our young players. He had a great playoff run for us too and he seems to be happy here. We're obviously happy with him and hope this is certain that works long term for both sides."

Siakam played 41 regular-season games with the Pacers – exactly half a season – and led the team with 21.3 points per game on 54.9% shooting from the field, including 38.6% from 3-point range, to go with 7.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He also led in postseason scoring at 21.6 points per game on 54.1% shooting. His 7.5 rebounds also led the team.

Siakam said in a post-game news conference Monday that he has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Indiana but would not discuss free agency. The Cameroon native had played all seven of his first professional seasons with Toronto and won a title there in 2018-19.

"The support from the first day has been incredible," Siakam said. "I couldn't really ask for anything better in terms of support from the first day I got here. I could literally name everyone. ... Just so much love and support. Coming from where I came from, I've sacrificed so much in a place. After you have that kind of break up, it's hard. It's tough. Then when you come into here, I think without that support, I don't know how I would do it. I'm so grateful and happy I came to a place where I felt so supported and you feel like you're needed and you matter. As a player, that's all you can ask for. I'm blessed to be able to be here and have the season we had."

All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who already has a max contract extension of his own, has gone out of his way since Siakam was acquired to make sure he feels as comfortable as possible and intends to continue that into the offseason.

"It's a big deal to bring Pascal back," Haliburton said. "Just a great addition to our team and an amazing player. He knows I'll be texting him non-stop, calling him non-stop. We'd all love to have Pascal back. That's definitely the plan. I can't speak for the man by any means, but I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure Pascal Siakam is in a Pacer uniform next year. I'm excited to begin that recruiting process I guess and just to have him as my teammate for the forseeable future, hopefully for the rest of his career."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Rick Carlisle makes clear Pacers' intent to re-sign Pascal Siakam