LAS VEGAS — Lucas Nogueira desperately wants to be a Raptor this season, but continues to be on pins and needles waiting for a buyout to be completed between Toronto and Estudiantes, his team in Spain since 2009.
The 7-foot centre with the personality almost as massive as his gigantic afro, is a big fan of Jonas Valanciunas and looks forward to going up against him every day in practice. Hopefully, starting soon.
In the meantime, he is at his second Summer League and is working hard to learn all of the plays, no easy feat.
“Last year I have same problem. If my team don't sign and clear, I can't play, I can't practice. So my team gave me the clear 20 minutes before. So I had 20 minutes to understand all of the plays,” Nogueira said.
“So sometimes on the court I don't know what to do, but I've played ball for six years so I know what my role is. Set good screens, roll all the time. So I'm confused 95% of the time, but I know if I'm confused on the court, I need to run and make screens.”
In time, Nogueira is seen as a coveted rim protector, something the Raptors badly need, since Valanciunas excels in other areas of the game.
He is already elite in terms of talking to the media, despite the language barrier (his English is far better than he gives himself credit for). He had the media in stitches, talking for 15 minutes or so after Toronto's third Summer League game on Monday. It is clear his personality - perennially happy and upbeat, yet serious and tough on the court - should fit in well in a locker room with excellent chemistry.
Just don't ask him to cut his hair, Brazilian big men Nene and Anderson Varejao made him do that a few years ago and it nearly ended in tears.
The team believes a buyout agreement should happen this week, which will ease Nogueira's concerns about continuing to delay his NBA debut. He was selected 16th overall by Atlanta last year, but the Hawks could not get a buyout done, so he stayed in Spain, struggling through an injury-plagued campaign.