As he walks off the practice floor, Lakers center Robert Sacre often loudly brags about his squad. He often does the same thing anytime he enters the Lakers’ locker room.
“We’re American’s team!!” Sacre said.
No, Sacre isn’t describing the Lakers. He’s not even talking about the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys that earned that nickname. Sacre is describing his alma mater, Gonzaga, a No. 11 seed that will face tenth-seeded Syracuse in a Midwest region semifinal on Friday.
“Those guys are hard-nosed, tough guys and all want to work hard and all want to win,” Sacre said. “That’s the best thing about Gonzaga. Everybody wants to win.”
Sacre then added, “We have America behind us, so we’re good.”
Teammates and reporters often laugh and roll their eyes at Sacre’s bravado. Lakers coach Byron Scott has even become somewhat annoyed with it. After all, Gonzaga has never even reached the Final Four.
“I hope they lose the next round. I’m tired of listening to him,” Scott said. “Hopefully they’re not around much longer. If they go to the final eight or in the Final Four, we’re not going to hear the end of it.”
Sacre has remained a public diplomat during his four-year NBA career with the Lakers where he has averaged 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game. He never complains about lack of playing time. He always expressed gratitude about any opportunity he receives. But when it comes to the Bulldogs, Sacre shows a different side of his personality. Hence, Sacre’s response to Scott hoping the Orange crushes the Bulldogs to a pulp.
“Is Arizona State in there?” Sacre said, referring to Scott’s alma mater. “When was the last time they were in the tournament?”
Sacre has also taking a liking toward trash talking with this reporter, perhaps because Syracuse beat Gonzaga in the second-round of the 2010 NCAA tournament during Sacre’s sophomore season. So, Sacre said it was “sad” this reporter initially did not project the Orange to advance this far in the tournament after finishing 19-13 this season, including 9-9 in the ACC.
So, Sacre scoffed at any prediction that Syracuse will win.
“You don’t need to talk about that right now,” Sacre said. “When you don’t have confidence in your team, it’s sad.”
Sacre then belittled Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone defense.
“We have shooters. So we just need to shoot that zone out and we’ll be all right,” Sacre said. “We’ll get good passes. They know how to work that zone. It’s easy.”
Sacre pumped up the Bulldogs, led by center Domantas Sabonis, the son of former Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis.
“They’re tough guys. They all work hard, especially in the offseason,” Sacre said. “I’m proud of them of what they’ve done and what they were able to accomplish is amazing, esepcialyl for the school. Coach [Mark Few] always gets them in line. Those guys are hard nosed, tough guys and all want to work hard and all want to win. That’s the best thing about Gonzaga. Everybody wants to win.”
Sacre then recalled how he and former Lakers forward and Syracuse alum Wesley Johnson endlessly talked trash after he scored 31 points to eliminate the Bulldogs in second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.
“Too bad Wes isn’t here. But we’ll be all right,” Sacre said. “I’m not too worried about it. America’s team is going to get a ‘W.'”
Scott and this reporter can only hope that isn’t the case.