Dario Saric: London offers ‘NBA atmosphere’ for 76ers and Celtics

Dario Saric (NBA/Getty)

Dario Saric has warned his Sixers team-mates that London cannot compete for atmosphere with the bear pits he used to face in other European cities.

The 23-year-old Croat is set to face the Boston Celtics at the O2 Arena on January 11 in an NBA regular-season match-up of two up-and-coming teams in the East.

But Philadelphia power forward Saric reckons the sell-out crowd will be nowhere near as intimidating as some he has faced in Europe.

Saric is a former Adriatic League MVP with Croatian side Cibona. He was later named FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year with Turkish Super League outfit Anadolu Efes as well.

He said: “I think my team-mates will like London. I think they will like it especially because Europe is older and there is a bigger tradition of everything.

“They can see some of the culture and there are many opportunities in London. For sure they will like it.

“But if you talk about basketball atmosphere, I think London is not so big for atmosphere like you have in countries like Turkey, Greece or Serbia.

“In those kind of countries, there is always more atmosphere. In London it will be more like an NBA atmosphere.”

Saric, whose mum Veselinka and dad Predrag were both pro ballers, has actually played in London before, with Croatia. But he’s expecting a bigger crowd this time.

Dario Saric (Dudek1337/Man Wiki)

Dario Saric (Dudek1337/Man Wiki)

He said: “I played in London in a tournament when I was 14 or 15. That’s my only relation with London. We were with the national team, playing against older guys.

“I feel really happy to get the opportunity to play in a Europe NBA game. All my friends and family will come to London to see me play in real life.

“London is a big city and I hope I get time to watch some football games. That’s a special thing for me. A special thing for all European players.”

It’s probably no surprise Saric grew up to be a baller given his family background – and he even knows all about the famous Sixers/Celtics rivalry.

From a young age his dad bombarded him with videos of the two teams going at each other in 1980s, when Larry Bird and Dr J would go toe to toe year after year for a place in the finals.

He said: “My father was a basketball player and he showed me a lot of clips, mostly of the rivalries between the Lakers, Celtics and 76ers.”

Saric was born 11 years after the Sixers won their last championship but he now feels part of a rivalry that is only set to grow after London.

The Celtics may be favourites to meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals – but they may have to go through the Sixers to get there.

And with young players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid only just starting on their journey towards stardom, it’s a rivalry that looks set to grow.

For now though, Saric is only thinking about putting on a show for Sixers fans in London – and the scores of family and friends begging him for tickets.

Saric, who was selected 12th overall in the 2014 draft by the Orlando Magic before his rights were traded to the Sixers for Elfrid Payton, said: “I have friends from Croatia, everybody is asking to put them on the list and reserve some tickets for London.

“My family is coming and for me it will be a really fun few days. I hope I get to see a Premier League game there too.”

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