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Lakers' Robert Sacre draws attention in return to Canada

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TORONTO — Canadian journalists gathered around one of their favorite basketball players before the Lakers played the Toronto Raptors.

A semicircle at Steve Nash's locker? Try again. Nash was on the other side of the country, trying to rehabilitate his bad back in Vancouver for one last run at playing this season.

Robert Sacre was the man of the hour Sunday, holding court with a dozen writers, only some of them American, in returning to his homeland.

Sacre, 24, played high school basketball in Vancouver before going to Gonzaga and eventually being grabbed by the Lakers with the 60th and final pick of the 2012 draft.

His second NBA season has been up and down, but he's getting more playing time than his rookie year and, accordingly, more attention from the media here.

It helped that Nash, Canada's undisputed most-adored basketball player, was not on this trip.

Other than attending West Coast Conference colleges, Sacre and Nash couldn't be more different. It didn't deter the Canadian media from continually comparing Sacre with Nash as he made his way through the pre-college ranks.

"It was weird," Sacre said. "We play two different positions. Two different spectrums completely. But they compared the recruiting aspect and all that. Nash has always been an inspiration for a lot of Canadians, especially for myself."

Inspiring how?

"He's always one of the hardest-working guys even though he might be older than most people," Sacre said, unable to suppress a smile. Nash is the NBA's oldest player, less than three weeks from his 40th birthday.

"He's always in the gym, working on his game, improving, trying to get better," Sacre said. "I definitely try to mimic my game after that."

Sacre has been in and out of the most unpredictable lineups in the NBA. He started eight games this season but failed to play in 14 of them.

He played only six minutes in the Lakers' 112-106 victory Sunday. He had two points and one rebound.

"There's a lot of people in that role, so we go back and forth a little bit to his detriment," said Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni. "He hasn't been given enough [time] as he should."

Sacre, though, earned a punch line via D'Antoni.

"He got us right through customs really easy yesterday," D'Antoni said. "It was good."

Sacre has dual citizenship with Canada and the U.S. His mother is Canadian. Sacre played for the Canadian national team in the 2010 world championships.

"He has a nice role in the sense that he brings energy," D'Antoni said. "He anchors our defense a lot of times. He creates room underneath. I think he'll keep getting better. He's got his little jump shot and hook."

Sacre is one of only four Lakers under contract next season, joining Nash, Kobe Bryant and Nick Young, who holds a player option.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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