We don’t like the dirty work in our lives. I don’t mean, necessarily, the cleaning of a toilet, or scrubbing of a dish. (Though you need to handle that too, even if you don’t like it; get a grip.) I’m thinking more broadly here, considering the ins and outs of social interaction, the requirements of employment, and their various combinations. These are the things we just sort of have to do in some form or another, thankless but necessary.
After spending most of the morning in meetings — meetings, it should be noted, that caused me to miss a catered breakfast — I was rousted by a university friend to meet for lunch. I had work to do (like writing this column) and other various things to prepare for in the afternoon. I handled the tedious business of these work meetings (sitting in a chair, saying little) and then began to deflect this old friend. To just say: no, I cannot right now, leave me alone, would be needlessly difficult. It didn’t make me feel good to do this — that’s the dirty part — but the commingling of all these elements is just something we have to do to keep life moving.
After the Lakers game on Friday night, Lucas Nogueira sat in front of his locker. As he prepared to stand up in front of the cameras, Raptors media relations man Jim LaBumbard looked on anxiously. We, along with Bebe, were confused. Until, that is, he stood up and then it all made sense.
Bebe’s shirt had the word “Illicit” across the top, which is no big deal in insolation. But as he unfurled his long body before the cameras, the hem of the t-shirt fell to reveal the words “No Fuckin Trust.” As the assembled media began to chuckle, Bebe still looked a little confounded until I pointed out to him there was a curse word on his shirt and the Raptors organization may not want to have that on camera.
Affable as always, Bebe explained the shirt was made by his friend. Lucas was wearing it on his behalf. It caused a moment’s stir, but he was just doing the work.
The dirty work approach — if Bebe’s game can be called that — paid off handsomely this week for number 92. Nogueira had back-to-back games of double digit points, and three games in which he shot a cool 100 percent (including two 5-for-5 nights). Unlike the dearly departed Bismack Biyombo, there’s a bit more balletic grace to Nogueira’s movements — in direct defiance of the “dirty” label — and he’s far more able to move the ball with purpose.
When I asked Bebe about his passes to the corner, he laughed. “People got angry, right? You guys see, every time when I have a chance to score, I go and score. But I grew up in Europe, and there it’s unselfish basketball, extra pass, extra pass.” Truly a noble, if sometimes infuriating, viewpoint.
And when his teammates miss the shot — as happened twice in the blowout against the Lakers — Bebe turned pensive. “Yes, if they hit the shot, it would be nice. But when they don’t hit the shot, they blame me... should have dunked it.”
The life of a semi-anonymous backup big man in the NBA can feel rather tiresome in this way — set screens, play defense, jump high. For the Raptors, the week ended on a sour note with a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Noguiera played his fewest minutes — just shy of 15 — and while I thought his presence meant something for Toronto, coach Dwane Casey went with a small lineup down the stretch.
The unfortunate loss was not without Bebe highlights however. A couple of times in the game Nogueira was left alone on an island with LeBron James and managed to swim back to shore. It’s a thankless task, goading the greatest player on earth into a three, or challenging him at the rim. LeBron can make any shot, or dunk the ball viciously enough to turn an opposing player into dust. What a sad fate that would have been for young Bebe. It’s grim even to contemplate.
So that was it: a couple of tries at stopping LeBron, ultimate defeat, and the chance to watch the seconds tick by from the bench. Oof.
Level of High Level
With three wins out of four, and a loss to the only team in the Conference demonstrably better than the Raps, this was a strong week. Not getting to play down the stretch of said loss is perhaps a bit disheartening — suggesting as it does an absence of trust still to be earned — but it at least gives Bebe a goal to shoot for.
And given his 78.9 percent field goal percentage this season: we know Bebe can shoot.
High Level Result: 9 out of 10 — Bebe, his fashion choices, and his work, can rejoice as one.