LAS VEGAS — Dario Saric is surrounded by questions.
Will he come to the NBA? When will he play for the Sixers? Where does he fit on the court?
More significantly, who is he?
Stephane Lasme can answer that. Lasme played with Saric on the 2014-15 Anadolu Efes squad, during which time they became teammates and good friends.
Lasme, the 46th pick in the 2007 draft, had stints in the NBA and D-League, including the Warriors, Heat, Celtics, D-Fenders and Red Claws. Born in Gabon, a country in West Africa, Lasme has played on multiple international teams, most recently Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul last season. Lasme was named the 2016 Eurocup Finals MVP.
Saric has been playing overseas since the Sixers acquired him on draft night 2014. The 22-year-old forward is close to joining the Sixers next season. Saric has until July 17 to notify his current team of his choice. On Tuesday night, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said on the NBATV telecast that a deal with Saric is close to 100 percent and that an announcement is expected "in the next few days."
Lasme explained why there is more to his decision than simply moving to the United States.
“He always wanted to [come to the NBA] really bad,” said Lasme, who is playing for the Hawks' summer league team. “I think he wanted to come here more than he wanted to stay. I talk to Dario a lot and I kind of know how he feels about the NBA. He wants to come, but there’s so many things around him. Dario’s not just Dario Saric. There is Croatia behind him. The whole country is watching him, [all of] Europe.”
This season, Saric averaged 11.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24 Euroleague games. He shot 50 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from long range.
Over the weekend, Saric recorded an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament championship game for Croatia.
“If you want a guy that gives a hundred percent every time, he’s such a hard worker and he wants to play on both ends of the floor,” Lasme said. “He wants to play hard on defense, so hard on offense, and he tries to get every rebound.”
Lasme believes Saric will continue to improve his shot in the NBA. He also predicts people will be surprised by another aspect of Saric’s game.
“Here, people underestimate how easily he can handle the ball,” Lasme said. “He can handle it like a guard. That’s going to help him a lot to transition. ... He’s got a pretty high IQ. He knows the right pass, he knows the right play. He’s not selfish.”
Off the court, Saric kept Lasme and their teammates amused while still being focused at the same time.
“Dario is funny, he’s a jokester,” Lasme said. “He wakes up every morning with a smile. He has energy when he walks into a room.
“He’s a great kid. Really respectful, really professional. He’s so much more mature than his age. You can talk to him and you feel like you’re talking to an adult.”
The Sixers have been waiting two years for Saric to join the team. Lasme expects his former teammate will make an impact if/when he plays in Philadelphia.
“He’s so talented because he can do so many things,” Lasme said. “If you want to win, Dario would be a good person to have on your team.”