CAMDEN, N.J. — Dario Saric has gotten off to a slow start for the Sixers, to put it mildly.
After a 1-for-9 effort Thursday night against the Clippers, he’s shooting 33 percent from the floor, 24 percent from three-point range.
Wilson Chandler hasn’t gotten off to any sort of start. He strained his left hamstring in the first preseason game and has yet to make his regular-season debut. But Chandler was a full participant in Friday’s practice and is questionable for Saturday’s game vs. the Pistons.
With Chandler’s return imminent, it appears there could be an opportunity to rest Saric, who has admitted he’s been negatively affected by playing for Croatia in the summer (see story).
Brett Brown isn’t buying into the idea.
I think it’s overrated. I really do. If you just look at our schedule, because I live it, I feel it probably more than I should, we’ve had time off. There has been time off. I’m more inclined to do what I did last night — I decided to go with Mike Muscala [at the end of the game]. It wasn’t for foul reasons, it was because Dario was down and I felt Mike was going to give us a better chance to win. That’s the nature of any game and the judgment of any coach.
I feel like if he came to me and said, ‘You know what, I need some time,’ and we talked about it, I would listen. But I feel like historically with Dario, getting through some stuff isn’t terrible. I don’t feel like I’m force-feeding anything, I don’t feel like I’m hurting him. In fact, I feel like I’m helping him. But what I really feel like is we have alternatives in the event that decision is wrong.
As Brown noted, Muscala played down the stretch for the Sixers in Saric’s place. While Muscala has been playing mostly as a power forward, Brown said Chandler “also has a chance as we grow him to learn some of the four spot.” That’s one of the “alternatives” Brown alluded to should Saric’s struggles continue.
The obvious answer for Saric’s poor start is the fatigue from international play. It’s an easy explanation for his rough first six games last season as well (33.3 percent from the field).
Still, there’s clearly a mental side to deal with too. JJ Redick is familiar with all the advice players tend to hear when they’re going through a shooting slump.
“Some days you want someone, some days you want people to just leave you alone," Redick said. “I think I’m always sensitive to that. The last four games I haven’t shot the ball well and people will tell you, keep shooting, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, no s---, I’m going to keep shooting, that’s not the problem.’ Sometimes the silent treatment is the best treatment.
“I’ve talked to Dario a couple times, he’ll be fine. I’m not worried about him. I actually said to him the other day, ‘You probably don’t even remember this, but you got off to a pretty slow start last year and then you had an unbelievable season.’ I think there’s a law of averages. Sometimes all you need is one breakthrough game where you have a really efficient shooting night … and then all of a sudden you remember how that feels and take off from there.”
For the time being, Saric shows no signs of wanting a rest — as usual, he worked after practice on his long-range shot.
Since it doesn’t sound like rest will be the answer, Saric, Brown and the Sixers are hoping that one breakthrough night is.
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