LAS VEGAS – For the past two years, Brett Brown has watched Dario Saric play international basketball from afar. He has traveled overseas to meet with him three times. He has corresponded with him through text messages.
Finally, he can coach him.
Now that Saric has signed with the Sixers, the next step will be for Brown to determine where to play him within the team. The Sixers are adding the 6-foot-10 forward to an already-loaded frontcourt. One option the team has is making a trade to move bigs and balance the roster.
In the meantime, Brown will assess the team, which includes numerous players that can be utilized at multiple positions. He believes he can pair Saric with first overall pick Ben Simmons, who plays point-forward.
“I don’t know,” Brown said of where he will play Saric. “You’ve got an abundance of bigs. Ben Simmons and Dario are very similar. We have a few veterans coming in. We’ve got Sergio (Rodriguez) and T.J. (McConnell) as who you’d stamp off on and say that’s a true point guard.
"I say that very much with a tone of excitement than trepidation. How we use him is going to be a challenge but fun, a great challenge. Dario and Ben can play together. They’re two really good players. How this plays out, how it takes shape, I think is a good challenge and one that we’re excited to learn more about.”
Saric averaged 11.7 points (50 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from three), 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24 Euroleague games this season for Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball Super League.
Saric said his position will be wherever Brown tells him to play. He played predominantly power forward in Europe and can also play small forward. Saric envisions himself fitting well with Simmons, as they both can shift to different positions on the floor.
“If you have five players you know who can run … I think it doesn't matter which position we play,” Saric said at his introductory press conference in Philadelphia. “It means like how we play, how we help each other during a game, and I think we will make good team, not just me and Ben, I think all things."
Brown had been waiting eagerly for the day Saric signed with the Sixers. He had been checking his phone regularly for updates – buyouts, clearances, flight statuses. All the pieces came together on Friday.
Saric assured Brown he would join the Sixers for the upcoming 2016-17 season on each of their visits. “'Coach, I have told you. In two years I’m coming,’” Saric would repeat. But until the deal was inked, anticipating Saric on the roster was close, yet still in the distance.
“It’s mist. It’s a ghost,” Brown said of waiting. “There’s nothing any of us can sort of latch onto because of the uncertainty.”
Saric will be new to the Sixers, but familiar with the organization. Through their communication over the years, Saric and Brown have developed a relationship that will ease Saric’s transition to the NBA.
"Like three to four times per week we stay in touch,” Saric said. “We don't talk just about whether I will come or I will not come. We talk about life, we talk about players … He's a great person, and I think he's a great coach and he will improve my game and game of all the team."
Brown was at the Thomas & Mack Center Friday evening to watch the Sixers play the Heat. The day marked the finale of their summer league action, and the beginning of the new phase they have been waiting for since draft night 2014.
“Today, for me to get images and texts and footage of him signing a contract in the city of Philadelphia, is a very, very exciting day for the organization," Brown said.