There’s no real reason behind a lot of the things we do. This is, I admit, a thorny notion. Writing about the Raptors through the lens of Lucas Nogueira, the team’s most inconsequential player — he can’t even get into blowouts! — feels particularly aimless today after last night’s crushing defeat. And yet, here we are. We all have our own intrinsic nature to account for in this life, that old scorpion-and-frog corollary, but after that it’s all mystery. And, to be honest, the reason for that nature itself is also unclear.
So why do the Raptors continue to do as they do? For the past few years they’ve trotted out onto the court in the hopes of winning a championship. Somewhere deep down, they know, as do we, that it won’t happen. At least not this year, and probably not in the next. And yet, they continue to play the games. The roster comes together, the schedule rolls out, and we all go through these motions together. There’s meaning to be found in the process, sure, but what is that meaning?
It’s easy to embrace despair and lose one’s grip on the world when asking these questions. In that scorpion and frog fable, there’s comfort in the certainty of it. The frog makes a tremendous error in judgement, deciding against the intuitive information it has on hand. But the scorpion, who will kill them both — the ultimate sad ending — knows exactly who and what it is. There is no reason there beyond the action. As the two creatures drown, it feels senseless. And yet the scorpion goes to its watery grave with this irreducible nugget of truth and self-knowledge lodged firmly within. We should all be so lucky.
Still, there were good times in the moment. Isn’t that always how it happens? When we look back on this season, we should remember the highlights. Small things like the Terrence Ross-Bebe no-dribble alley-oop; or those times when Kyle Lowry decided to say “screw it” and bury a team by himself. Remember how excited we all were the day of the Serge Ibaka trade? The Raptors, a team that used to get routinely fleeced, involved in a positive deal! It still brings a smile to my face.
This post-season run has been extremely stressful, and has had many questioning whether the Raptors have what it takes to be the best. They almost fell apart against an ascendant foe in Milwaukee, and now seem set to crumble completely against a superior one in Cleveland. Perhaps it is naive to embrace nostalgia in troubling times such as these. The comforts there are well-known, the glow of the past casting this recent pain into shadow.
But in looking back we also remember how far we’ve come, everything we’ve accomplished, and the highs and lows along the way. There is pain today, but we knew that already.
Like all the great artists, LeBron James works with purpose. His genius is one of kinetic mastery, spatial awareness, and time. There is nothing he can’t do in his chosen medium, the basketball court. He lopes along at different speed, with different thoughts, a whirring computer and a graceful spirit, balanced on two impossibly powerful legs. It’s awesome to watch, even as he rends your sense of self, your communal identity, your very hope, limb from limb. There are planes of existence few of us ever glimpse, let alone reach, and LeBron is on one of them. We will never be so lucky.
Nogueira has admitted to struggling with his focus, and his mood has dipped and dived all over the place for most of the season. This makes him someone to which we can relate. Maybe that’s the reason for this column. Like him, I haven’t mastered anything in quite the way I should. (Let’s set aside whether I actually could.) And all I want to do is try and figure it out. There’s failure there more often than success. I suspect those frustrations are shared by many of you readers.
We don’t know why we do anything we do, or whether it will amount to anything of note in the end. We study the LeBrons of our lives trying to glean an answer, and then it’s over.
Level of High Level
However this season was supposed to end, for the Raptors and Bebe — and many saw this specific outcome in general, even if the details were vague — this conclusion remains unsatisfying. Maybe it was always supposed to happen this way. Maybe it was just this team’s nature. Maybe there’s a peace to be found now, in accepting that fate. At least tell me there’s a peace to be found somewhere. There’s got to be.
High Level Result: 1 out of 10 — It’s the end. With, at best, two games left to play, there will be no more. As seems to always be the case, I’m unsure whether anything regarding Bebe, the Raptors, or life, has been clarified. We carry on.