Dario Saric

Sixers Notes: Saric, Okafor, Noel

Although a crowded frontcourt has kept the Sixers in the spotlight through the first four months of the NBA season, there are other concerns that the Philadelphia franchise will have to address heading forward. Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer decided to shine a light on some of the less discussed roster dynamics in a recent column.

One of the biggest questions that Sixers head coach Brett Brown will have to answer as the roster formally evolves from rebuilding project to actual Eastern Conference contender is what to do at the power forward spot. Currently the club starts veteran Ersan Ilyasova with rookie Dario Saric slotted in as his replacement off the bench. Saric’s play of late, however, has warranted more playing time. In nine February games, Saric has averaged 15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Considering the progress that the Croatian has made, general manager Bryan Colangelo will need to determine whether he trusts Saric enough to let the 29-year-old Ilyasova and his expiring $8.4MM walk this summer. Another challenge the club’s brass will have to face is to truly assess the value of backup big man Richaun Holmes. Holmes has impressed, averaging nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, but it’s unclear whether the team would be comfortable with him as Philly’s primary backup center.

Another thing that the Sixers will have to address in the near future is adding perimeter offense. It’s imperative, Cooney writes, that the team add shooters who can open the floor for Joel Embiid and eventually Ben Simmons.

There’s more out of Philadelphia:

  • Although nothing has transpired yet, there have been plenty of trade talks surrounding Jahlil Okafor. Although the second-year center’s name has come up in rumors all season long, he was held out of two games last week as the franchise engaged in discussions with “10 or 11 teams”. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Okafor grew up playing against Anthony Davis of the Pelicans and would be particularly interested in playing in his hometown for the Bulls. Both New Orleans and Chicago are among the teams with whom Philadelphia has discussed a possible trade.
  • For what it’s worth, Joel Embiid believes that the Sixers could utilize all of their assets, including Jahlil Okafor. As Pompey writes in a separate Philadelphia Inquirer piece, Embiid suggested as much on Saturday. “We got a lot of talent, and I feel we can use everybody if we want to get to where we want to,” Embiid said.
  • Once at the center of trade rumors, Sixers center Nerlens Noel has noticed a change in culture, writes Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. “It’s a lot more fun, a lot more enjoyable, and it honestly feels like a whole new culture,” Noel said. The big man is aware of the logjam at his position, however. “[Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and I] are all genuine, and we’re all young men who just want to play well in this league and see each other do well at the same time.”

Sixers Notes: Covington, Rodriguez, Saric

Small forward Robert Covington should get plenty of scoring opportunities with the presence of center Joel Embiid this season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid’s ability to draw double teams in the post could often leave Covington open beyond the 3-point arc, where he’s made 40% of his attempts this preseason. He’s also intent upon gaining a reputation as a strong defender, Pompey adds. “I’m going to keep growing as a defender, becoming a two-way player,” Covington told Pompey.

In other preseason news involving the Sixers:

  • In the same article, Pompey notes that point guard T.J. McConnell has been looking more for his shot, McConnell is averaging 10 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 50% during the first three preseason games.
  • Veteran point guard Sergio Rodriguez, who is playing in the NBA for the first time since 2010, has already endeared himself to the team’s big men, Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The longtime Euro star had 15 points, eight assists and no turnovers in 27 minutes against the Cavaliers on Saturday. “He’s really helpful,” Embiid told Cooney. “When we play, he always talks to me and tells me where I need to be and how to get position.” Rodriguez, who has an $8MM contract this season, is currently backing up McConnell with Jerryd Bayless sidelined by a wrist injury.
  • Coach Brett Brown plans to limit forward Dario Saric‘s minutes during the preseason, Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com relays. Saric has gotten very little time off since last October, when he played in Europe. Saric was also a key member of Croatia’s Olympic team in Rio this summer. Saric played well in the team’s first two preseason games before shooting 1-for-7 from the field against the Cavaliers. Brown is planning to sit him for the team’s next game on Tuesday. “I sense sometimes that he is sore, and I just want to be mindful of that,” Brown told Seltzer.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, McCullough, Noah

The Sixers are still coming to terms with the injury to No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, who is expected to undergo surgery in the near future due to a broken foot he suffered during practice last week, Aaron Carter of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Dealing with injuries is nothing new to the team as of late, coach Brett Brown noted. “There is nobody, sadly, that’s had more experience dealing with injured draft picks than we have,” Brown said. “So over the course of time, you learn how to best deal with it. There needs to be, there has been, and we’ll get better this time, a holistic approach to the person. There needs to be understanding that there’s an opportunity to educate [Simmons] in the film room, watching different NBA players and teaching him. There might be an opportunity where we sit him in a chair and remake his shot, rebuild his shot, and really spend time with the fundamentals of his shot.

The loss of Simmons will open up a larger opportunity for rookie forward Dario Saric, Carter adds. “That’s where my head goes to first,” Brown said. “Dario will have more opportunities, responsibilities. I think how we rotate this group now will change. We will learn a lot. The preseason’s really going to be good for us in that regard.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Nets need to replace Thaddeus Young, who was the starter at power forward last season, and if he has a solid preseason, it may be with 2015 first-rounder Chris McCullough, Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily notes. “That’s a spot that’s open,” coach Kenny Atkinson said of the four spot, adding that the Brooklyn has ‘versatile bigs’ in guys like McCullough, Luis Scola, Justin Hamilton and Anthony Bennett. McCullough, 21, only appeared in 24 games in 2015/16, missing the beginning of the season as he recovered from a torn Achilles he suffered in college.
  • Knicks center Joakim Noah is nursing a minor hamstring injury and is likely to sit out Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Celtics as a precautionary measure, Ebenezer Samuel of The New York Daily News relays. The big man did not practice today as a result of the malady, the scribe adds.
  • Shooting guard Avery Bradley wants to be known as the best defender in the NBA and understands that for him to garner that honor, his Celtics teammates will also have to up their play on the defensive end, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com relays.

Atlantic Notes: Carroll, Rose, Kuzminskas

DeMarre Carroll‘s first season with the Raptors after signing with the team as a free agent was marred by injury, with him seeing action in only 26 games as a result. While he’s still not 100% recovered, Carroll hopes his second campaign in Toronto is more productive, The Associated Press relays. “I look at it as basically my first season [with Toronto],” the 30-year-old Carroll said. “A new season, a new beginning. I’ve just got to come in and get back to playing DeMarre Carroll basketball when I’m healthy.” Speaking about the steps he took to prepare his injured knee for a return to the court, Carroll said, “We took a hard approach about it and we did it the right way. Last season it was more of a rush, trying to get me back. We didn’t go through the whole thing we needed to go through to get the knee to where it needs to be. I feel that we’re on the right track.

Here’s more out of the Atlantic:

  • Not only is Derrick Rose getting used to a new city and new teammates, he’s also attempting to acclimate to the Knicks‘ triangle offense, which isn’t an easy task, Ian Begley of ESPN.com writes. “It’s complicated a little bit right now because it’s new to us. It’s foreign. But I think the more we work on it and the way the coaches are putting it into the offense, it’s [going to get] little bit easier,” Rose said after Thursday’s practice. “[There’s] like 40 to 50 options on one side of the floor. It’s like giving you your space for creativity. It’s like if you’re doing it the right way, you could do everything you want, you could freelance but you just got to know where you’re going.
  • The Knicks are pleased with the outside shooting of rookie Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who may end up being Carmelo Anthony‘s primary backup at small forward, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “He’s a guy that with his size, got agility, you can look at him at the 2 or 3,’’ coach Jeff Hornacek said. “There could be times we use his length at the 2 spot. He’s a guy who cuts — cutters open everything up. The stat’s not in the paper. You don’t get glory from it but it’s a huge part.’’
  • Dario Saric‘s athleticism and versatility is earning him praise from the Sixers coaching staff and is setting the rookie forward apart from the other members of the team’s crowded frontcourt, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Sixers Notes: Rodriguez, Stauskas, Bayless, Simmons

Sixers coach Brett Brown is enjoying the luxury of having veteran leaders in camp this season, writes Brian Seltzer of NBA.com. The Philadelphia front office has been criticized in past years for not putting experienced players on the roster to guide the team’s young talent. Over the summer, the Sixers added free agents Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson and Sergio Rodriguez and re-signed Elton Brand. Brown seemed particularly impressed with Rodriguez, who has 10 years of professional experience between the NBA and Spain, along with two Olympic appearances. “He just has a real gift for understanding especially offensive tempo,” Brown said. “I think he’s got a bounce to his game and a pace to his game that he will be absorbed in how I want to play.”

There’s more training camp news from the Sixers:

  • Entering his second season in Philadelphia, Nik Stauskas finally feels comfortable in the NBA, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. After being picked eighth overall by the Kings in 2014, Stauskas has produced two lackluster seasons, but he sounds ready for a turnaround this year. “I have a confidence that I know I belong here now,” he said. “The first two years, there’s so many times that I’m trying to fit in. I go to bed at night and I wonder, do I really belong here? Like, is this where I was meant to be? I think this is the first time in my NBA career where I said I know I belong here.”
  • Bayless was on the Bucks team that was a surprise playoff participant two years ago and he sees similarities with the current Sixers squad, Pompey writes in a separate piece. “That’s not a promise or anything,” Bayless added. “But at the same time, if we follow the path, and we play defense on a nightly basis, you never know what can happen. We just want to continue to get better.”
  • Brown is working on combinations in camp involving rookies Ben Simmons and Dario Saric and he plans to use them together during the season, Pompey notes in another story. “I think the pluses are you have 6-10 do-alls that really can jump into a very versatile defensive world with perhaps a lot of switching,” Brown said. “I think they are elite defensive rebounders that can rebound, lead a break, and take off.”

Atlantic Notes: Mutombo, Brown, Simmons

The Raptors have added Patrick Mutombo to their coaching staff, Blake Murphy of the Raptors Republic reports (Twitter link). Mutombo previously was an assistant coach with the Nuggets and more recently, an assistant coach with the Austin Spurs of the D-League.

Here’s more

  • Brett Brown remains focused on developing a culture within the Sixers organization, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “Those things ultimately matter,” said Brown. “Maybe not so much to the outside world, but if you really want to grow a program [it does]. I’ve seen what championships look like. I’ve seen five times what it takes to play in June. . . . So the growth sometimes might not be as quantifiable to the outside world. But I know it.”
  • While the Sixers will closely monitor Joel Embiid‘s minutes, rookie Ben Simmons will have no minutes restrictions and is expected to play over 30 minutes a game, Pompey passes along in the same piece. Simmons is also expected to take reigns of the offense early on.
  • Brown believes Dario Saric‘s experience playing in Europe will help him transition to the NBA, Jessica Camerato of Comcast Sportsnet writes. “He sort of contradicts his birth certificate in that his basketball experiences are rich,” Brown said.. “He’s not a kid. He’s no kid. He’s 22, but he’s no kid.” Saric was drafted by the Magic with the 12th pick in the 2014 draft before being traded to the Sixers.




Sixers Notes: Hinkie, Noel, Okafor, Embiid

Former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie will take at least a year away from basketball to teach at Stanford, he tweeted today. Hinkie, who resigned from the team in April, sent out a series of tweets discussing his present and future. He called this a “gap year,” but didn’t speculate on whether he hopes to return to the NBA (Twitter link). Hinkie, who spent three years in Philadelphia’s front office, refused to comment further on the tweets when contacted by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. However, a Deadspin report suggests the former GM will be a guest speaker for one or more Stanford classes, rather than actually becoming a faculty member.

There’s more Sixers news this evening:

  • Nerlens Noel is the most likely player to be traded to ease the logjam in the Sixers’ frontcourt, writes Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Inquirer. In a series of predictions for the upcoming season, Cooney says it’s a close call between Noel and center Jahlil Okafor, but he suggests that Noel will be sent elsewhere before the trading deadline in February. Cooney also predicts that a minutes restriction on Joel Embiid will last until about Christmas, that rookie Ben Simmons will start right away and lead the team in minutes played, that Dario Saric will need time to adjust to the NBA but will claim a greater role as the season wears on and that Philadelphia will win 27 games, up 10 from a year ago.
  • The Sixers should consider trading both Noel and Okafor, according to Zach Harper of CBSSports.com. Harper suggests Philadelphia could get a nice return for Noel right now and then deal Okafor next spring or summer to a team that gets disappointed in the draft lottery. If Embiid’s health holds up, Harper states that he and Simmons could be the building blocks of a contender. The writer lists the Celtics, Pelicans, Timberwolves and Rockets as possible destinations for Noel, and the Lakers as the best option for Okafor.

And-Ones: Krzyzewski, Griffin, Simmons, Patterson

Mike Krzyzewski desperately wants to win his final game as coach of Team USA, writes Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Krzyzewski demonstrated he is putting victory over player egos by pulling DeMarcus Cousins from the starting lineup in Friday’s semifinal against Spain and inserting defensive specialist DeAndre Jordan. Voisin also suggests that the closeness of many of this year’s game displays the need for a different philosophy in picking players. Krzyzewski, whose team will face Serbia in Sunday’s gold medal game, has an 82-1 record and two gold medals since taking over as Team USA coach in 2005. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will assume control of the team after the Olympics are done.

There’s more tonight from around the world of basketball:

  • Former D-League All-Star Eric Griffin, who will reportedly play in Israel next season, has a buyout clause that allows him to sign with an NBA team, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Griffin was recently cleared of an attempted murder charge in Florida, and his agent contends the case cost him a chance to play in the summer league.
  • Ben Simmons is the rookie most likely to make an impact in the NBA from the beginning, writes Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders. Blancarte picks the No. 1 draft choice because of his combination of court vision, size, athleticism and opportunity. Simmons is expected to take control of the Sixers’ offense right away. Others on Blancarte’s list, in order, are the Timberwolves‘ Kris Dunn, the Sixers‘ Joel Embiid and Dario Saric and the Pelicans‘ Buddy Hield.
  • After being claimed off waivers by the Kings, one of Lamar Patterson’s concerns was whether he could bring his pet alligator, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. His mother had been watching the creature while he played for the Hawks because he couldn’t keep it as a pet in Georgia. Jones found that California only allows pet gators if a special permit is obtained.

Eastern Notes: Saric, Ibaka, Heat, Wizards

Dario Saric has the right temperament to excel in the NBA, the elder statesman of Croatia’s Olympic team told Michael Lee of The Vertical. The 22-year-old power forward, a 2014 lottery pick, will join the Sixers this season after spending the last two years overseas. Roko Ukic told Lee that Philadelphia is getting a tough-minded player. “He’s got a great mentality,” Ukic said. “Even the time things don’t go great for him shooting-wise or offensively, he can bring so much different stuff to the table. So he can help the team in various ways. He’s not like one-way player.” Saric struggled in his Olympic debut but made a key block against Spain’s Pau Gasol to secure an upset victory, which Ukic labelled a character-building effort. “Whoever come from our country to the NBA, is like our next big thing. There is so much pressure,” he said to Lee. “These kind of wins, these kind of games can give him the push in the back and help him, not only for this tournament, but for his career.”
In other news around the Eastern Conference:
  • Serge Ibaka gives the Magic a much better defensive option against Eastern Conference counterparts LeBron James, Al Horford, Chris Bosh and Paul Millsap, as Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel breaks down in his latest column. Ibaka, who was acquired from the Thunder in a draft-night deal, provides the club with its first legitimate power forward in 15 years, Schmitz declares.
  • The Heat’s development and scouting staff will play an integral part in getting the franchise back to the status of serious contender, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel opines. The coaching staff needs to develop the skills of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson, while the scouting staff must maximize next year’s first-round pick, Winderman continues. That will help attract free agents to South Beach because the Heat can no longer rely on quick fixes, Winderman adds.
  • Center Micheal Eric, who played on the Wizards’ Las Vegas summer league team, has signed with Spanish Club Bilbao, league sources informed J. Michael of CSNmidatlantic.comEric had the option of joining Washington for training camp but decided to head overseas when the club wouldn’t offer a partial guarantee, Michael adds. The 28-year-old Eric averaged 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in five summer league outings. 

And-Ones: Stackhouse, Labor, Olympics, Garnett

The Raptors are expected to name former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse as head coach of their D-League affiliate, Raptors 905, sources told Chris Reichert of UpsideMotor.com. Stackhouse, who played for eight teams during a career that lasted from 1995-2013, spent last season on Dwane Casey’s staff. He would replace Jesse Mermuys, who is now an assistant to new Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton. Stackhouse coached the Raptors’ Summer League team in Las Vegas last month. Raptors 905 was an expansion team last season and had several players that also saw action in the NBA, including Anthony Bennett, Bruno Caboclo, Delon Wright and Lucas Nogueira, Reichert adds.

In other news around the league:

  • NBPA executive director Michele Roberts is optimistic a new labor agreement will be reached before a potential lockout, she told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “Our teams have been in discussions for some months now and we have made progress and we’re inclined to continue along those lines,” she said. “We have meetings this summer and we’re meeting next week and [consistently] after that. We’re trying to get a deal as quickly as we can, ideally before the start of the season.” Roberts added that if an agreement isn’t reached by the Dec. 15th deadline, the union would likely opt out, triggering the possible lockout following the season.
  • American fans will get their first look at a lot of foreign players during the Summer Olympics, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. There will be many players whose names are familiar because teams hold their draft rights, such as Croatian star Dario Saric, who recently signed to play for the Sixers next season. Other prominent names include Lithuania’s Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Spain’s Willy Hernangomez, who will both be part of the Knicks; Nigeria’s Michael Gbinije, a second-round pick of the Pistons; China’s Zhou Qi, a Rockets’ second-rounder; Spain’s Sergio Llull, who the Rockets have been trying to convince to come to the NBA, Lithuania’s Domantas Sabonis, who was traded to the Thunder on draft night; and Spain’s Alex Abrines, who recently signed with the Thunder.
  • Kevin Garnett met with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor but no final decision materialized regarding Garnett’s future, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. The 40-year-old Garnett, who appeared in 38 games last season, has one year and $8MM remaining on his contract.
  • CAA Sports signed NBA free agent guards Sergio Rodriguez and Ish Smith and negotiated deals with their new clubs, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. The Sixers signed the 30-year-old Rodriguez to a one-year, $8MM contract. Smith received a three-year, $18MM deal from the Pistons.

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