The future of Philadelphia 76ers basketball was gathered in Sevilla on Thursday as Michael-Carter Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid all took it upon themselves to fly to Spain to root on for another cornerstone of the organization at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Croatia’s Dario Saric. The trio of players were sitting courtside at the Croatia vs Puerto Rico match along with head coach Brett Brown, GM Sam Hickie and Sixers European scout Marin Sedlacek.
<br/>Brown was happy that the three young stars – Williams is 22 years old; Noel, 20; and Embiid, 20, still wearing ski boot-sized footwear protecting his stress fracture injury – also made the long trip across the Atlantic to see Saric, the 20-year-old No. 12 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft who was selected by Orlando but immediately traded on draft day to Philadelphia for Elfrid Payton.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) September 4, 2014
“It’s a great effort that these three players have made to travel across the ocean to see a fellow teammate and show him support,” said Brown, who will be spending his second season with the Sixers after going 19-63 last season. “These four players are the cornerstones of a very young NBA program. We’re trying to build something in the city of Philadelphia and for these guys to come over and all of us to spend quality time is a wonderful experience.“It’s a wonderful experience and a wonderful opportunity for these three guys to be able to sit here and watch a fellow teammate in a different environment than the NCAA Tournament and different environment than the NBA. I’m glad that they can experience international basketball.”
Brown said he was impressed with what he was seeing from Saric for Croatia: “The thing that stands out for me is that there’s a presence that he carries himself with. There’s a toughness that he plays the game with that is just so appealing to me. And it’s how we want to build our program in the city of Philadelphia. It’s a tough city, it’s a real city, it’s a sports-minded city. And I like the physicality how he approaches the game,” said Brown.
The Sixers coach compared Saric with a player he worked with for many years as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs: French international Boris Diaw.
“From a skills perspective, he’s got the ability to pass, he sees the floor so well, he’s got the ability to rebound and lead the break himself as a point forward, like some of the great point forwards. I’ve had the opportunity to coach Boris Diaw for many years in my 12 years with the Spurs. There’s some similarities that I see in Boris and Dario. But all of those things add up to a pretty special player at age 20.”
Brown continued: “I look and understand his age of 20 having coached for many, many years internationally. It’s hard to stand out against men. It’s hard to stand out on this stage, and at 20 years old he does do that.”
Brown, Hickie and the players were due to meet Saric later Thursday for dinner to have informal talks.
Brotherly love pic.twitter.com/tebiXeYX8B
— Joel-Hans Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) September 4, 2014
Noel was impressed seeing Saric for the first time.
“We came out here to support Dario. He’s a great player. It’s my first time seeing him and I’m very impressed and excited about the future and having him be a part of what we’re building in Philadelphia,” said Noel.
Noel said he’s “ecstatic” about playing with Saric in the future.
“I’m so excited. I love this kid already. His game is so unique. With the great passing like that we’re really going to grow as a team and really going to be able to do so many things.”
After collecting 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting and 3-of-3 free throws to go with four rebounds and three assists, Saric said he appreciated his future teammates making the long trip to see him.
“I’m proud that those kind of players come here to Sevilla to support me, to support my team. I appreciate those guys,” said Saric, who will spend this season with Turkish team Anadolu Efes Istanbul.