PHOENIX – Dario Saric didn’t have his phone on him when he found out the Timberwolves traded him to Phoenix so they could move up in the draft from No. 11 to No. 6 and select Jarrett Culver.
His phone was charging while he was having dinner with his friend, who was about to get married that weekend. Another friend got the news on his phone and told Saric, who then saw the flood of messages pour in on his phone.
“The first 15 minutes I was like …” Saric said. Then he paused and wore a stunned expression on his face. “You know? It’s life in the NBA.”
Saric got a crash course in that last season as he was traded twice within the span of a calendar year — once from Philadelphia to the Wolves in November as part of the Jimmy Butler deal and then again in June.
Saric said he, coach Ryan Saunders and other staff members were in regular contact about his role for next season, and then in a moment everything changed.
He left with fond memories of the organization and the people he got to know with the Wolves but he’ll be the first to admit it was hard adjusting on the court.
“It was a very hard year,” Saric said. “I got traded in just the beginning of the season. I couldn’t catch up on all concepts immediately in Minny. It was a hard season for me to adjust 100 percent on the team, in the area, in everything.”
Specifically, Saric had trouble adjusting to the Wolves’ style of play, which he described as “totally different” from how he played in Philadelphia.
“More pick and rolls, more spread on the court, more guys involved in the offense than me, and it was hard to adjust to find the hole where I could fit, where I could be the best I can,” Saric said.
“It takes some time to realize all that and maybe everything happened just so quickly for me. I didn’t have time to adjust and the season just goes.”
Saric averaged 10.5 points in 23.9 minutes per game with the Wolves, down from the 13.5 points and 28.1 minutes he was averaging the first two seasons and 13 games of 2018-19 with the 76ers before being traded. But he did say he felt like he was getting more comfortable toward the end of the season and did shoot a career-high 45% from the field.
“I think very highly of Dario and I think he’s going to do some really positive things here in Phoenix …” Saunders said Tuesday as the Wolves prepared to play the Suns in their preseason opener. “I think it just shows what we think of Jarrett and what we think he could be as a player to give up an asset like Dario to acquire Jarrett.”
But now, Saric is in Phoenix, trying to make the most out of the hand the NBA dealt him. At least he has a climate more suitable to him and more in line with his native Croatia. Minnesota might turn out to be a speed bump in his career, but one he won’t soon forget.
“There was a good group of people,” Saric said. “Stuff was great, I think Ryan was my man from the beginning until the end. All that will have a special place in my heart. I really appreciate all the guys and what they did for me. I hope they appreciate what I did for them.”
Saric finished with four points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes of play Tuesday.
Culver readies for NBA debut
The man the Wolves traded Saric for, Culver, was set to make his NBA debut on Tuesday. Culver didn’t appear anxious before the game and said he wasn’t overly nervous as he prepared to put on a Wolves uniform for the first time.
“They know what I can do, and I know what I can do,” Culver said. “When you play hard, other things will come. Your offense, your shot, other things will come.”