EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. - In the Los Angeles Lakers' opening pre-season game on Oct.7 against the Golden State Warriors, Steve Nash fed a beautiful pass between an opponent's legs to centre Robert Sacre for an easy layup. Coach Mike Brown said the play made it look as if Sacre, a rookie, had been in the NBA "for three years."
Heading into the 2012-13 season, Nash has recorded 9,916 assists during his NBA career, but few as satisfying as the one he picked up on the play against the Warriors.
Like Nash, Sacre is a British Columbia boy and, in a sense, Nash is not only his teammate but his boss.
As general manager of the men's national team, Nash has a vested interest in the seven-footer doing well. And his first order of business is helping Sacre, the 60th pick in the 2012 draft, make the Lakers. Sacre has started the first three pre-season games for L.A. in place of the injured Dwight Howard. So far the reviews have been good. Sacre, 23, has averaged 21.7 minutes, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 7.7 points -- with Nash watching on like a proud father.
"Obviously it's a unique situation," Nash said. "I never thought I'd ever play in the NBA with another player from B.C. It was a lot of fun. We didn't really talk about it, but it was a source of pride for me and I was proud of Robbie for being out there, and he did great."
Making a team as talented as the Lakers as a late second-round draft pick is no easy task, but so far Sacre, who recorded 679 rebounds for Gonzaga (sixth in school history) in 135 games, has met the challenge.
"He's a big body and he just has to understand that he has to play hard because right now he's getting a ton of minutes," Brown said. "If he makes the team, he ain't getting these minutes. So he just has to let it all out. He's got to run hard, he's got to roll hard, and he's got to set solid screens, and then he's got to box out and rebound. His job is relatively simple. And he's doing a decent job with it. This is a big step for him to start for us in the pre-season and play against starters and stuff like that. But I give him credit. He'll be fine at the end of the day."
Added Nash: "The biggest thing is to work hard and listen to your coaches and be coachable, and if you can do what they ask you to do, you can play for in this league a long time when you're as big as he is. He has been very well coached, I think our coaches appreciate that, and I think he typically knows technique and where he's supposed to be and I think that puts him ahead of the game. As a late second-round pick it's difficult make an NBA team, but he's putting himself in a position to do so."
For his part, Sacre called playing with Nash "a huge honour."
"(He) makes my job a lot easier, no question," said Sacre, who played high school ball at Handsworth Secondary in North Vancouver.