Game Preview | Saric's Fulfilling Trip Nears Finish

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Sizing Up the Sixers (24-42):

When it comes to his coaching approach, few priorities seem to matter more to Brett Brown than creating connections with the people around him.

“The whole thing is about relationships,” Brown said over the weekend, when the 76ers were in Los Angeles.

Whether it be with Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo and the front office, assistant coaches, or - perhaps most significantly - players, Brown believes that forming bonds across all parts of an organization only serves to make it stronger.

The togetherness that has resulted, in Brown’s eyes, represents the primary reason why the Sixers, in the face of all the adversity they’ve confronted these past four years, have still been able to stay unified.

“It’s dealing with people,” said Brown. “The conversations are clear, they’re real. We talk things through, and I think on those terms, for me for sure, it’s the only way really that you can move forward under those terms.”

Given his views on the power of relationships, and their ability to help a person or a group navigate challenging or uncomfortable times, regardless of scale or scope, it probably should come as no surprise that Brown has maintained the following standing invitation of sorts during his tenure with the Sixers. Over the course of the grinding marathon that is the NBA season, he occasionally permits members of the team’s traveling party - players, assistants, and support staff employees - to bring partners (girlfriends, fiances, wives) or family on road trips.

Which brings us to Dario Saric.

If you’ve managed to fight through some of the late start times back East, and follow the Sixers’ current four-game trek, you might have noticed that the first-year power forward has had quite a successful journey out West.

A then-career high 28 points last Thursday in Portland, to go along with nine rebounds.

A solid 16-point, five-rebound showing two days later in Los Angeles, versus the Clippers.

Then came the rewriting of his career-high scoring mark Sunday, when he went for 29 points, and delivered vital contributions down the stretch in the Sixers’ narrow two-point victory over the Lakers.

It has indeed been a good run for Saric, one made that much sweeter by having two of the most important people in his life by his side. Saric’s mother, Veselinka, and his girlfriend, Karla, have accompanied Sarich on each leg of the Sixers’ trek, set to wrap up Tuesday in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As Saric continues to compile a compelling case for Rookie of Year consideration, he’s been appreciative of a policy that’s allowed Veselinka and Karla to join him for a portion of the ride.

“First, I’m thankful, because Coach gave me the opportunity to bring my mom and girlfriend with me on the trip,” Saric said this past weekend.

Both Veselinka and Karla, the latter still enrolled in college, live in Croatia full-time. While each has previously flown to the United States to see Saric play, there have only been so many chances to do so. Roughly 4,500 miles separate Saric’s hometown from Philadelphia.

“Of course, when you are alone, when are you like basically on another part of Earth, and have opportunity to bring, your mom, your girlfriend to be with you, if you cannot be with them together, for example, in Philadelphia at home, to bring them like that on a trip to me means a lot,” said Saric.

The support, he said, has made a difference.

“It’s easy, when they are with me here, because time’s going faster than for example when you are alone here, and you are in your room alone, or some of your teammates busy can’t do something and some friends in other town,” Saric explained.

Since reporting to Philadelphia about six months ago, the 22-year old Saric has been immersed in unfamiliar settings, both professionally and personally. Through pangs of loneliness, however, there have been no indications his performance on the court has suffered - just the opposite, actually.

Amidst the 16-game double-digit scoring streak carries into Tuesday’s rematch with the Golden State Warriors, Saric has averaged 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 31.5 minutes per game. Also during this stretch, he’s converted 47.6 percent of his shots, knocked down 27 3-pointers, enjoyed eight 20-point games, and turned in five double-doubles.

Rookie of the Year-worthy numbers, indeed.

When loved ones can’t be with him, Saric said his fellow Sixers have rallied to get him settled and comfortable in relatively new surroundings.

“Of course, we are like everybody friends, we are very good group of people. We are good friends on the court, off of the court. It’s an amazing thing to build something bigger.”

A foundation established on relationships. Brown, you’d have to think, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sizing Up the Warriors (52-14):
In Warriors’ land, losing five of seven games constitutes a major slump, especially given the team’s success over the past two-plus seasons. Golden State last endured a slide of this extent back in November of 2013, at the outset of the season that preceded its first championship campaign.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Warriors’ troubles began with their February 28th game at Washington, which witnessed off-season signee Kevin Durant go down with an MCL sprain in his left knee. According to reports, the four-time scoring champ and 2014 Most Valuable Player could be healthy enough in time for the start of the playoffs.

Steph Curry, meanwhile, has been trying to shake off some shooting struggles. Since the Sixers’ and Warriors last played February 27th at The Center, a night on which he went 0 for 11 from deep, the man with the NBA’s most prolific 3-point teach each of the last five seasons has converted just 23.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Amidst their current three-game losing streak, Golden State has slipped into a first-place tie with San Antonio in the Western Conference standings. In their most recent game, a date with the Spurs Saturday in Texas, the Warriors rested Curry, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala.

Series History:
The Sixers have lost their last seven meetings with Golden State, including February’s 119-108 setback at The Center. Dario Saric tallied 21 points, seven rebounds, and a then-career high seven assists. Richaun Holmes came off the bench to provide 15 points and five boards.

Despite the length of the Sixers slide against the Warriors, the last five games between the clubs have been relatively competitive, decided by an average margin of approximately eight points.

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