I never believed the Raptors would actually trade Lucas Nogueira before this afternoon’s deadline. That’s the truth. Could I see the team relying on him in the playoff crunch? After the trades for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, no, probably not. If Bebe were to come into a post-season game, it would be for a modest spell, or to power those Kyle Lowry plus bench lineups the Raptors love to roll out. Down the stretch, it would be Patrick Patterson and Ibaka in the front court. We know this.
That doesn’t make the trade talk any less distressing. It’s been a marvel to consider this beanpole Brazilian with Sideshow Bob hair as he’s climbed out of NBA anonymity while weathering injuries and time spent in Fort Wayne (of all places). I understand the impulse to toss Bebe into a deal, but I believe my reticence also makes sense. I’ve written about this before in other contexts.
But what are we even talking about here? An NBA trade represents all kinds of things. A chance for a young man to get a fresh start, or an older man to find a real home; maybe it’s the hopeful setup of a plan for the future, or a buttressing of a team’s foundation so it can build even higher. In some cases, it’s an admission of defeat. Trades are fun that way.
The Raptors did not trade Bebe today, but they did make moves. And that, my friends, is a thing that makes me happy.
As always, Nogueira gets it.
Bebe to media room: “They trade me yet? No? If they do, make sure they get a lot of picks, because I think I deserve them."— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) February 23, 2017
The Raptors did make a trade, and did have to give up a lot of picks — well, OK, two — to get Tucker. We’ve been over this already: it is a good deal.
Now, the only thing left to grapple with is expectation. The Raptors were a good team at the beginning of the year and, after their pair of trades, they are better. But they’ve also had some trouble winning games in 2017. The play of many on the roster — including Bebe — has gone up and down and sideways. The hope here is that all the pieces, new and old, will be able to coalesce into something great. On paper, looking at the 10-man rotation, this looks easy. In practice? We don’t know yet.
The goal, of course, is to go back to the Eastern Conference Finals and give the Cavaliers a rough go. They’ll have some stiff competition this year (even with the Wizards making only a modest move and the Celtics standing firm). Obviously Toronto would like to beat Cleveland, and these most recent moves inch them slightly closer to that goal. (It doesn’t hurt that the Cavs are currently all over the place due to injury and roster unrest; plus, LeBron might be getting... tired? Naaaah.) But this is why they play the games — to see expectation put into action.
If it doesn’t happen the way we all want, try to remember this afternoon and these moments of joy. It’s fun to imagine the future, but expectations don’t always meet reality. If the days ahead bring pain, think back to this day, and then, going forward, resolve to hold tight to those moments in the present that bring happiness.
Level of High Level
So Bebe is still with the Raptors. For the purposes of this column, this makes me happy. I also enjoy having him around the locker room, and around these guys. Is he necessarily the best influence for, say, Bruno Caboclo? Ehhhh, maybe, maybe not. But he’s proven himself so far, so why not keep it rolling. Onward!
High Level Result: 9 out of 10 — The only thing left to do, starting tomorrow night, is see it all in action. The Raptors are in a bit of a hole right now, and so we ask: can they fly out of it?