It has been a long road back to the hardwood court for the Phoenix Suns’ big man, Dario Šarić. But finally, Šarić is beginning to feel like his old self again.
“I’m feeling really like a basketball player [again],” Šarić said after Thursday’s practice. “Before [I was] feeling like, I don’t know, [a] weight lifter or something like that. But finally [I] feel more like a basketball player.”
The stretch-5 from Croatia celebrated his 28th birthday on April 8th and has been recovering from right knee surgery for the past nine months, after suffering a torn ACL in Game 1 of last year’s NBA Finals. The Suns’ staff have been working closely with him every step along the recovery process, gradually rebuilding his strength, fitness, and psyche.
“I’ve really had a great group of people here who [are] really taking care of me since the first day since I [got injured],” Šarić said. “I know the plan, how we’re going to go every week, everything. So [I] really believe in them.”
While Šarić has been given the green light in practice to participate in more shooting drills standing up and some light conditioning drills, there still seems to be a long way to go for him to play in an NBA game. And Šarić is cool with that.
“I think it’s the best to kind of say, ‘Maybe I’m not going to play this year’,” Šarić said. “But like, if three players, three big guys [get] injured and you need somebody and I’m feeling healthy, maybe it’s [a] different story. So for this, right now, I’m feeling like I’m kind of like out for the season, [and] be their support.”
This aspect of Šarić’s role during the regular season has been under-appreciated. Šarić has been a constant presence on the Suns’ bench, on the road and in Phoenix, supporting his teammates and celebrating their success on the court. Few would have criticized him for not attending games, especially early on in the season when he was so far away from beginning on-court drills.
But for Šarić, the success of his team was his priority. And if he could make an impact with his support and his presence, he would not shy away.
“Even [if] one guy is really in one way negative or doesn’t want to be part of the team or something like [that], guys see that,” Šarić explained. “[You] can’t interrupt the chemistry between the players.”
While he has made tremendous progress throughout the season, it still seems unlikely that Šarić will be included on an active roster in this year’s playoffs. But Šarić has made his peace with that fact and is more than happy to play his role, during practice, in the locker room, and on the bench.
“This is like my home, [my] second home... it’s unbelievable to support them, to be there for them, to give some advice. Maybe [I have a] cooler head than them during the game, maybe [I give] some advice especially [to Deandre Ayton], because I was with him since the first day this kind of program [started]. So it was really good that I was there for the team because I really feel it. I really want it.”