Two Steps Forward: The Lucas Nogueira Story

Title: Two Steps Forward: The Lucas Nogueira Story
Date: November 2, 2016
Original Source: Sportsnet
Synopsis: For my latest feature at Sportsnet, I looked at Lucas Nogueira’s long path to NBA relevance, why it’s been stunted on so many occasions, and how he stays positive through it all.

Lucas Nogueira ducks his head through a tucked-away door at the back of the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas and heads toward the gym. Standing seven feet tall—before accounting for several inches of insouciant tufts of wild black hair—Nogueira is impossible to miss. Wearing a pair of mirrored aviators, a black tank top, and a smile nearly as wide as his 7-foot-6 wingspan, heads turn and the corners of mouths draw upward as he steps onto the court. He makes his way through the Raptors’ bench, slapping or shaking hands with Toronto’s summer squad, which includes a pair of first-round big men, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl.

In a few short months, when the regular season begins, he’ll be looking up at both on the Raptors depth chart. But now, here in Vegas, the affable Brazilian and his infectious energy is making quick fans of the rookies, stealing a microphone to interview Siakam and drawing uproarious giggles from the freshmen. Nogueira is a spectator at the NBA Summer League this time around, having already spent three years in the league’s annual tournament. He’ll scrimmage with the Raptors throughout the week, but with pending nuptials, a child on the way, and a desire to spend time at home in Brazil during the upcoming Olympics, the decision for Nogueira to sit out was an easy one.

It also signaled that the man affectionately known as Bebe had officially entered the next stage in his career.

With Bismack Biyombo departing and a crop of unproven bigs on the roster, Nogueira entered the 2016-17 season with a new opportunity: To carve out a meaningful role in the Raptors’ rotation. After two years of biding his time, and proving he’s too good for the level below the NBA, the backup centre job was Nogueira’s to losethroughout last month’s training camp.

But he’s had chances in the past, only to be beset by injury, usurped in the rotation or both. And now it might be happening again. In the final game of the pre-season, mere minutes from the most important of his four seasons, Nogueira suffered a sprained ankle. Once he makes his debut, he’ll have to fight the rookie Poeltl for minutes and reestablish his worth to the club. Like Biyombo before him, he has the talent and potential to be an X-factor off the bench for Toronto.

But he’s not Bismack Biyombo. He’s Lucas Nogueira.
Continue reading at Sportsnet.

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