Lakers center Robert Sacre dunks during a win over the New York Knicks on… (Harry How / Getty Images )
He's often the forgotten one in the Lakers' mash-up of who's coming-who's going after this season.
It's easy to understand why Robert Sacre is overlooked even though he's one of only four Lakers under contract after June — three if you toss out Nick Young, who is expected to decline a player option for $1.2 million.
In the race to analyze/criticize the $23.5 million coming to Kobe Bryant next season and the $9.7 million due to Steve Nash, Sacre's $915,243 just doesn't measure up.
But he'll be here unless he's traded. And he's not morbidly depressed about it.
"No question," he said. "We're at the bottom so might as well just go to the top. There's nowhere else but up from now, so I don't see anything else."
That's Sacre. He's optimistic when pondering the future of an obviously unsteady team.
Even after the Lakers lost to Minnesota by 36 points Friday, their largest deficit ever to the Timberwolves.
"Discouragement is OK," Sacre said. "You bring your car into a mechanic's shop and he tells you it's going to be done in an hour and it's not done for another four hours. It's discouragement but at the same time you can't dwell on it. You've got to keep doing whatever you're going to be doing until that time is ready."
Sure, but the Lakers have been beaten-up clunkers this season, staggering to a 24-48 record and surely on the way to their worst mark since moving from Minneapolis in 1960. The 1974-75 Lakers went 30-52 but they're about to be let off the hook.
It's not that Sacre is content with losing. He just chooses to envision better days.
For himself too.
He might be the Lakers' best defender and Coach Mike D'Antoni recently called him their hardest-working player (Bryant, part of only six games this season, surely must not have been around that day).
"I'm happy with my improvement that I've made over the past year," Sacre said. "But I know I can jump it to another level."
He'll work on his offense during the off-season, trying to improve a scoring average that's hovered at five points a game.
He knows what he'll do to make that happen. But he won't really share it. Even the most optimistic have their secrets.
"I can't tell you," he said. "Wherever I play — and that's been when I'm in college, high school, wherever — I create a home for myself, an environment where I feel comfortable. And I just make sure throughout that whole summer that's where I'm at and that's where I train."
Pau Gasol might play against Phoenix on Sunday, D'Antoni said, after sitting out three games because of vertigo.
Gasol left last Sunday's game against Orlando at halftime after feeling dizzy and nauseated. He did not make the team's two-game trip this week.
He is averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds.