Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams confirmed backup forward Dario Saric, who missed all of last season due to an ACL injury, will “get some time in the preseason” after he did not play in the team’s preseason opener against the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday night.
“This is a lot for him to come back and play over a year out,” Williams said. “We’ll get some time in the preseason so he can get some reps.”
Saric has not played since Game 1 of the Suns’ NBA Finals appearance on July 6, 2021, when he planted his right knee awkwardly on a hop step to the basket.
Saric, who is in the final season of his three-year contract, made his return to play for Croatia in EuroBasket this offseason. He averaged 9.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in six games.
Saric had back-to-back 15-point games against Estonia and Great Britain. He recorded at least eight rebounds and three assists in four contests.
When asked why Saric didn’t play, Williams said it was difficult for the Suns to play multiple big men in the game. Cam Johnson started at power forward and the Suns’ bench rotation saw Torrey Craig as backup power forward and off-season acquisition Jock Landale as backup center with Ish Wainwright and Bismack Biyombo filling in.
Williams indicated before the game Craig may be the Suns’ backup power forward when they open the season against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 19. He has also been high on Landale’s performance in training camp.
“I just wanted to see Jock with that second group,” Williams said. Because it’s looked good in camp.
“I think that’s a group that we can grow. This is probably the most Jock has played in a long time. But we feel like he can give us an added punch, because he’s athletic, he can rebound and he can knock down shots. He didn’t knock down shots like he has been in practice but we feel like he can.”
In the 2020-21 season, Saric was a very useful player for a Suns team that went to the Finals for the third time in franchise history. He averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 50 games played during the regular season and was relied on as a backup center for Ayton.
He was also credited as a big reason why backup point guard Cameron Payne had an efficient postseason due to his ability to play off Saric’s pick-and-pop talents.