Ex-Raptor Nogueira reveals battle with depression

Lucas 'Bebe' Nogueira played four seasons for the Toronto Raptors, after toiling in the NBA's summer league for two spells. But earlier this year, the 26-year-old Nogueira found himself out of the NBA and training in Sao Paulo, Brazil, hoping for a return to the top basketball league in the world.

Nogueira has been dealing with depression since late last year.

Depression also led to his release from Fuenlabrada in Spain's Liga ACB, the 7-foot center said, adding that he hasn't given up on a career in the sport.

"I have responsibilities now," Nogueira told ESPN.com.br. "I have a daughter to feed and a family to help. People depend on me. This helped me to push through. I'm a young man and I cannot surrender. I should use all of that to inspire me to play my best basketball again."

Some might think it would be virtually impossible to suffer from depression while earning millions and performing on the sport's biggest stage.

"This is why I kind of stopped talking about my frustrations. I talked to a lot of people I shouldn't have in this period of time," Nogueira said. "I thought they would help, but they didn't. People start to make fun of you and mock you just because you have some money and some status, they think you're untouchable, like you're not human. Money and status don't matter that much. It [depression] can happen to anybody. You can't escape just because you're famous."

Depression has also affected others in the NBA. DeMar DeRozan, Nogueira's former teammate with the Raptors, discussed his bout with depression last year.

"Everyone found out through the media," Nogueira revealed. "Maybe [Kyle] Lowry knew it already because they were inseparable. If you're not a communicative guy like myself, it's hard to share this stuff with other people. Everyone got scared, you know? A guy with his athleticism, technique and status we think cannot suffer with this. No one had the opportunity to talk to him just like they didn't talk to me either. I was pretty bad in May. It got worse in September, then I decided to come back to Brazil."

Nogueira averaged 3.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and a blocked shot in his four seasons in the NBA, all with Toronto.

During his recent time in Spain, 'Bebê' admitted to having a drinking problem. He started his career at the ACB as a teenager before declaring for the NBA draft in 2013. After he was drafted by the Celtics in 2013, Boston traded his rights to Atlanta. He played in the summer league for the Hawks in 2013, then for the Raptors in 2014, and was signed later that year.

Nogueira says he has been sober for three months.

"I'm not the victim here and I don't deny that," he said. "I'm a sincere guy who has always taken responsibility for what I did. I'm very much like a good friend I have called Felipe Melo [former Brazilian international soccer player]. We are very authentic. I think I should've had more opportunities, but maybe I did not deserve them. Everyone has their time to go out and drink, but I went over and over again. And there was no one to, you know, step on my brakes.

"I went out a lot. In Spain, we had one game per week. You're young, you have some money and no limits. You would eventually find the party. It's Europe. I had no work ethic whatsoever. When I went to the U.S. I saw that a 15-year-old kid had more discipline than I did. It is a cultural thing."

Nogueira is now training in Sao Paulo and has had some calls from the NBA, he said. His plan is to be good to go by June so he can participate in tryouts and preseason games.

Is he ready to go back to the NBA?

"If you asked me the same question four months ago, I'd say I didn't know. Now I say I will be back," he explained. "What makes me so confident is my training and my attitude. I'm ready for the challenge like I've never been."

Nogueira is aiming to play for Brazil in the FIBA World Cup in August in China, though that is not a guarantee. Brazil plays in Group F with Greece, Montenegro and New Zealand.