HOUSTON — The fluctuating circumstances haven’t changed Robert Sacre. They’ve just revealed his unflinching positive outlook regarding his position.
So when Sacre smiled and beamed in excitement surrounding his first NBA start because of injuries to Dwight Howard (right shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (left hip), it went beyond the relief that his $474,000 contract will become guaranteed on Thursday. The Lakers’ 60th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft has maintained that attitude since the beginning with infectious energy.
Such a mindset then spilled out onto the floor. He became one of the few positive stories trickling out of the Lakers’ 125-112 loss Tuesday to the Houston Rockets, posting 10 points, three rebounds and four blocks.
“I thought Robert played really well,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Then he got tired. Real tired.”
Fair enough. Sacre struggled stopping James Harden and Jeremy Lin from driving to the rack with ease. But nothing seemed tiring regarding Sacre’s mindset.
He had spent the previous day playing a 10 a.m. game for the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, in Reno, Nev. But Sacre didn’t complain about the schedule. He’s toiled in eating countless buffet dinners during three separate stints in the D League, but he maintained he liked the food. Any moment in the locker room gave him an opportunity to express how he’s just living the dream.
Sacre has good reason to feel that way now, and is no longer Mr. Irrelevant.
“I felt pretty confident,” Sacre said regarding staying on the team. “Obviously in the back of my mind, you’re always asking ‘What if?’ But I felt I worked hard enough where I felt comfortable with it.”
Sacre showed that approach in various ways.
He spent most of the preseason starting at center while Howard rehabbed his back, giving Sacre a chance to earn goodwill through his insatiable hustle and eagerness to learn. Sacre maintained that mindset as the 15th man on the roster, standing up and cheering frequently after the Lakers scored.
Plenty on the Lakers noticed.
“Scares been great. “He understands when he gets his opportunity to just go out there and play,” Howard said. “He’s a guy who comes in, work hards and during the games he’s up cheering.”
Against Houston, Sacre carried the same mindset.
He made an off balance seven-foot jump shot after running into Rockets center Omer Asik. Sacre set screens for Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash with purpose and speed. On one play, Sacre kept a possession alive by tipping the ball in the Lakers’ favor on two consecutive misses.
“It definitely is kind of surreal for the fact I was playing on the D League team and all of a sudden I get a callup,” Sacre said. “That’s how this business works. You always have to be ready.”
How busy has it been?
Sacre caught up with the team Monday on a commercial flight mere hours after playing in the D League. He had a prolonged morning shootaround to brush up on D’Antoni’s concepts. Sacre, a Canadian, sounded surprised when a reporter alerted him the NHL lockout had ended.
“It is? See, I’ve been in Reno,” Sacre said. “They don’t have hockey.”
The Lakers have Sacre. Even if that doesn’t exactly solve the Lakers’ long-term issues, they still have found a dependable option who’s amenable to any circumstances.
“There couldnt’ be a better guy who deserves it,” D”Antoni said. “He’s over there and is the most energetic best guy on the bench that you can have. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”
And now that it has, Sacre took plenty of notes on his first NBA start.
“It’s not the D League,” he said. “You can learn a lot in one game. You just make sure you take it and take whatever you learned and take it onto the next one.”
That process will happen tonight when Sacre matches up against the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan in what he mark his third game on consecutive days.
“I’m a guy who brings energy,” Sacre said. “So I just have to keep focused and keep doing what I do best.”
That includes staying positive through the whole experience.