It may be his first season in the NBA, but already having played seven years of pro basketball, Toronto Raptors centre Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira is hardly your typical rookie. The 22 year-old from Brazil and 16th pick of the 2013 draft took some time before a recent home game to talk to Sportsnet about life as an NBAer, Brazilian teammate Bruno Caboclo, and what it’s like to be a rookie on a successful team.
Sportsnet: I wanted to catch up on how your first season has been going. Is this what you expected?
Lucas Nogueira: Before I came here to the league I was an NBA freak. I followed all the games, NBA lives of the players and the cities. So I was a little bit educated, I understood about the game and league from watching on the TV. But to be here in person, it’s very different.
What’s been the biggest surprise?
LN: Oh, well, every day—not just in my first days or months, but still every day—I feel surprised and I learn new things.
LN: I learn about the organization and how professional the league is. We have amazing facilities, like our practice court, our basketball facilities, locker room—everything is clean, everything is the best there is. It just gives you the whole support to be the best you can be. It makes me feel, like, not afraid. It’s just amazing, the organization and how much money they invest in us.
I played in Spain for seven years before coming to the NBA. I understand that in other leagues they don’t have the same money, the same billionaire owners to do the same things. But here it’s an opportunity where the owners have a lot of money, so they really invest in us to get the results we all want.
Does having a fellow rookie from Brazil in the locker room help you get through your first year?
LN: Yeah, I think it’s great, [but] I don’t think I’d have a problem if it wasn’t like that. People ask, “Lucas, what it’s like having a locker room guy from the same country sharing a rookie year with you?” and I say, “It’s amazing.” But, really, I’d feel the same way if it was a Canadian or American guy, I’d feel just as comfortable because with these guys here it’s so easy to make friendships. But of course, to have a guy like Bruno with me, to speak the same language, have the same culture, is better. We try to learn from each other. I try to teach him about my little experience in Spain playing professional basketball, but I know I can learn from him every day, too. So we have an amazing connection.
Is there a common trait among Brazilian players?
I think Brazilian people are so friendly, they have a great affection for the people around them. It’s a trait for us all—not just me, Leandro, Bruno, the basketball players, but all Brazilian people. We want to treat people nice, and with respect.
You’ve only appeared in a handful of games thus far. How do you deal with not seeing the court, especially compared to last season in Spain?
LN: Today I’m living a very different life than in Spain. In Spain last year I was playing 30 minutes a game. Now I don’t have a chance to jump out onto the court. But it’s not making me give up, it’s making me have more motivation to work hard and stay ready for my opportunities. I don’t want to stay on the bench. Still, I know that might not change soon.
But I can’t give up. I have to understand that this is a process, and that every rookie has to go through this—especially being on a successful team like us. I know that maybe a rookie on an unsuccessful team might get to play more, but if you’re playing for a good franchise you don’t always have the same chance to play.
I have friends on other teams, like Nene, Barbosa, Al Horford, Pau Gasol. They talk to me, help me, and explain that everyone goes through the same process at some point, and to stay ready, relaxed. Just keep working and don’t give up. So I’m Ok.