2017-18 Player Review: Lucas Nogueira

Bebe misses his band.

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When I picture Bebe this summer its sitting behind a drum kit, alone. He picks up the sticks and rolls them across a snare, making a little ra-ta-ta-ta, the beginning of a drumroll. He’s content, but he’s lonely. He misses his band.

The big story around Lucas Nogueira this offseason is going to be whether or not the Raptors resign him. It’s fair to make a case for keeping him. He’s an earnest player and dedicated in his mentality to the team, if not to the game itself. His attention could hone to moments of pointed sharpness this season but they weren’t sustainable. One minute he was there, plucking the ball off the glass for a rebound and gently placing it in the basket, the boon of a 8” wingspan writ really large, but the next his attention had shifted to something just beyond the court. A wayward first riff in the ubiquitous crunch time blasting of ‘Crazy Train’ being played over the ACC’s speakers? Unknown. But he wanders, then snaps back into it a half second too late, with the ball already on the move down the court, away from him.

That’s why I think the focus on Bebe this summer should be toward something that means a lot more to him—we gotta find this guy a band.

Nogueira is a drummer. He used to play bass, going so far as to sign up for lessons but he put it aside when it demanded too much of his time. Not to draw conclusions but this sort of reminds me of his approach to basketball. Anyway, he’s a drummer. He used to play in a samba band called Connection. Last summer, I want to say a hazy hot Wednesday in July, Bebe and his band turned up at a bar in Leslieville to play. Bebe was pretty happy, by all accounts, something he’s since come out and said. But one of the members of the band had to move back to Brazil, and would it be wild to equate this loss of his band to his lack of concentration in the court? Probably, obviously they aren’t really related.

But imagine this: When it comes time to dole out Nogueira’s contract, why not consider the great music dynasties of some of the cities he could go to? D.C. has a decent jazz scene, in New York there’s everything. Orlando and Sacramento, the two traditional contract offloading grounds of the Raptors, likely don’t have the best scenes. Orlando is proximal to Miami, at least, where there’s got to be a better samba scene than Toronto.

Picture it, his next first gig could be at halftime at his next homecourt arena. He’s there behind the drums and he’s smiling that huge grin we all know and love, the kind that comes with a wayward dunk or connecting with a pass that he was meant to catch and then dunking. He’s proud. He’s purposeful and intent. He’s going to totally shred.

Or better still, maybe in Sacramento, he’s jamming along the river and people passing by are like, Is that? It couldn’t be. Shouldn’t he be at practice? And he should be, but bless him, he’s probably getting more airtime shredding the skins. In Orlando—ok this is harder—he is cornered by some Disney executives who have wandered out of their corporate box during a game and they’ve heard he knows how to play drums. Come and play at the park! They’ll insist. And he’ll show up the next day and he’ll say he’s there to play in the Magic Band he heard about and someone at the ticket stand will tell him, Sir, MagicBands are the wristbands people buy for all-access to the park.

Is music Bebe’s first passion? Will basketball be his first passion after he’s left it for music and decides wait, my first passion was basketball? Truly tough to say. But a hunch that’s not that hard to ground is that Bebe is probably not coming back. A lot of room is going to be needed to hang onto the assets the Raptors really want, like Fred VanVleet and Bebe’s kind of replacement, Jakob Poeltl. There’s no doubt Nogueira would continue to improve next season if he stayed, maybe more under Nick Nurse and the rotational experimentation he’s already said is his big priority, but it would most likely be in fits and starts.

So let’s use the rest of the time he has here in the city to get him some gigs, maybe some complementary passes to Jazz Fest and whatever weird shows are happening at Echo Beach. I think Marilyn Manson is coming in August? Bebe loves rock, he’s said so himself. I’m sure between all of us we can pool enough together to at least buy him a three hour session at Rehearsal Factory.

One thing is for certain, the first time Bebe comes back to Toronto with whatever franchise he ends up at, the standing ovation he’s going to get will be one thousand times better than whatever Nickelback got, one of Bebe’s favourite bands, whenever they last played the arena. Anyway, I miss him already.