Phoenix Suns big man Dario Saric is full go for 2022 FIBA EuroBasket as Croatia’s center... and centerpiece. It’s been more than 13 months since his last official basketball game, but in a short post-practice presser, he said he’s feeling good ahead of the tournament:
“I missed the national team, it is always an honor and pride to play for Croatia... The feeling of being back is fantastic. After the end of the NBA season, I trained [in Phoenix] until mid-July. I was preparing to be as fit as possible. I feel good. It’s nice to be with these players.” (via EuroHoops.net)
Joining Saric on the Croatian roster are more former/current/future NBA talent:
- Mario Hezonja — NBA from 2015-20, now with Real Madrid in Euroleague
- Karlo Matkovic — 2022 second-round pick by New Orleans Pelicans
- Bojan Bogdanovic — NBA from 2014-present, now with Utah Jazz
- Ivica Zubac — NBA from 2016-present, now with LA Clippers
- Jaleen Smith — 2021 Summer Suns
Smith is currently working through the citizenship process, but Saric is excited by his addition:
“I am overjoyed that the Federation decided to add an American player... We have been together for only a few days and it’s impossible to expect too much from him at the moment, but we will get used to each other and it will be much better in the games.”
Dragan Bender, former top-5 pick by the Suns, was part of the initial squad for Croatia but didn’t make the final cut. Head coach Damir Mulaomerović noted that Bender was coming off a long injury and will play with the squad in the future.
Saric also spoke about his future with his Suns as well, albeit minimally:
“Right now, the plan is to go back to Phoenix... I talked with the coach, but you never know in the NBA. I don’t worry about that. I am trying to come back from injury and my focus is on the national team.”
The Croatian team begins exhibition play on Sat. Aug. 13 against Bulgaria and will play three more exhibitions — Czech Republic (8/14), Hungary (8/18), and Slovenia (8/20) — before starting up tournament play against Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece on Sep. 2 at 8 a.m. AZ time. All tournament games are streamed on FIBA’s YouTube channel both live and on demand.