Sixers: Tracking Saric and Rodriguez Through Olympics Ep. 1

Aug 4, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; General view of building with Olympic rings logo and Brazilian flag at Copacabana Beach prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; General view of building with Olympic rings logo and Brazilian flag at Copacabana Beach prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Dario Saric squared off against his soon to be Sixers teammate Sergio Rodriguez on Sunday in an Olympic battle between Croatia and Spain.

In a game that will be remembered for predominately for Dario Saric’s sensational block on Pau Gasol to clinch the game, it will be easy to forget about what was overall disappointing performance from the Croat.  Indeed there were a few gems from the hopeful future international phenom, but he certainly did not turn in his best performance in Croatia’s narrow victory over Spain on Sunday.

As the game ended on a high note for Saric, it also started on one.  On the first possession of the game, the dapper checkerboarded Croat was able to rise up and snag a defensive board, before taking the ball full court and dishing out a lovely assist for the first points of the game.  That was it for him for the first half more or less, however.

The Croats did not employ Saric as the point-forward we are used to seeing and he operated predominately out of the corner and in the post.  Occasionally he drifted up to the top of the key to set screens.  In the post he struggled, though on one instance he had a disgusting behind-the-back pass that led to a lay-up.  He was consistently denied down low by the Spanish big men.  Yet, when he was able to dribble out behind the arc, he often took advantage of his defenders, driving by them en route to the hoop.

Concatenated onto his struggles in the post were his woes from the floor.  He was 1-7 shooting and made none of his four 3-point attempts.  This permeated through to his foul shooting were Dario Saric customarily missed his first shot before sinking the second, ending 3-6 from the stripe.  With this type of shooting and his level of passing, he appeared to be exactly the player we thought we were getting.  The comparisons to Ben Simmons seem somewhat apt.

While this skepticism of his shooting seems warranted, the 5 assists he garnered throughout the game could easily have been doubled.  Dario Saric never forced his shooting hand during the match, and was able to display his incredible passing abilities.  Countless times Saric was able to provide his teammates with open looks that simply were not converted.  The Croat also quietly came down with 7 rebounds during the game rounding out his 5/7/5 line.  It is actually delightful that during a game in which Saric appeared not to be in top form he was still able to produce these types of numbers.  He wasn’t in the form he was for the qualifying tournament, but it was enough.

It should be exciting to watch.  The entire Croat team, Saric included, seemed troubled by the speed and tenacity of the Spanish defense.  The Spanish team, loaded with NBA talent, provides a decent metric of the level of competition Saric will face as he transitions to the Sixers, and surely if this is any indication he will be up to the task with a little bit of work.  At the very least, social media guru Joel Embiid was impressed!

For their opposition, Sergio Rodriguez put in a dazzling performance.  He struggled shooting, going 3-11 on his way to 10 points, but looked so silky smooth every time he touched the ball.  Four of his 7 assists came in the second quarter where he was truly magnificent.  From a no-look pinpoint pass to Gasol for a corner three to the perfectly weighted peach of a pass lob to Mirotic for an easy lay-in, Rodriguez was on point.  In addition, he showed the ability to take on defenders and drive to the hoop.  It reminded us of his flashes of brilliance that we saw during his stint with our favorite trade partner, the Kings.

The Spanish coaches were obviously impressed by Rodriguez’s performance, as starting point guard Ricky Rubio only played 12 minutes the whole game, as the 76er took his place.  Rodriguez also showed the ability to play out of the two spot, which he did in small flurries.  It was an overall, impressive performance from the wily Spaniard, and despite the disappointing loss his team suffered he is sure to put in some more excellent minutes for the team as they continue on their quest for gold.

must read: Can Saric Earn Minutes With Olympic Play?

Yet, that is not how this game should be remembered.  As we prepare to usher in an era of brilliance (we hope), let us keep this footage of “The Homie Dario Saric” blocking the bejesus out of Pau Gasol close to our hearts.