Dario Saric ‘absolutely' would be better NBA player if he didn't play for Croatia


CAMDEN, N.J. — There’s no hiding the fact that Dario Saric is off to a rough start this season. 

In the first five games of the campaign, Saric is shooting 37 percent from the field. Last year, knocking down threes became the most notable improvement in his game, but he’s been ice cold from downtown (27 percent). The third-year forward’s struggles have only been magnified because of the Sixers’ 2-3 start.

Of course, this isn’t new for Saric. During the first eight games of the season last year, he shot just 32 percent from the field. The first 10 games of his rookie season saw him at just 39 percent.

Unfortunately, there is one tricky culprit that can be pointed to: Saric’s long summers playing with the Croatian national team. Whether it’s the FIBA World Cup, the Olympics or this summer’s Olympic qualifiers, Saric is playing basketball all year round.

The 24-year-old forward has always been fairly honest with the media. After practice Friday, he was pretty candid about how international play has affected his NBA career.

It means so much to me (to play for Croatia) but you know it’s going through your mind maybe if you skip some summer you will be a better player. Maybe you have more time to spend in the States to work on your game. Absolutely, I think I would be a better player if I didn’t play [the last] five, six years on the international team every night. I think I would be a better player but at the end of the day, everything is about winning and you want to win with your national team, too … 

It’s just so hard to talk about it. It really matters for me. This way I choose is maybe wrong, maybe right, but I really enjoy being there and playing with those guys and to represent my country. 

Saric’s poor shooting could certainly be chalked up to tired legs. His shot, which never really had much arc, to begin with, looks even flatter than usual. 

To his credit, Saric was the last player to leave the floor after practice. He was putting up shots from all over the court, trying to get his feel back and hoping to get his game on track.

“I hope I catch a rhythm,” Saric said. “It’s not something that’s going to last all season. Every game I think I’ve improved a step going forward. There shouldn’t be some big question about it. I don’t think I’m playing bad like you can’t recognize me or things like that. 

“How I finished last year I know everybody maybe kind of expected the same game at the beginning of the season but I think it’s hard. I need a little bit of time.”

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