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8 reasons Minnesota should fall in love with Dario Šarić, posthaste

Associated Press

Associated Press

Jimmy Butler fiiiiiiiiiinally got freed up this week, and so Minnesota's basketball fans are posed with the choice of missing him or despising him, this difficult man who spoke his mind and wanted control over his own career.

Jimmy can be tough to have on your team. But you sure as shit wouldn't want to play a game against him, especially not a game with a lot on the line.

Oh, well. These things happen. A Star Tribune poll from the weekend says 41 percent of people like the Jimmy-for-pieces-and-picks trade "A lot" and 33 percent like it "A little," leaving 25 percent to say they like it "Not at all."

We at City Pages are reminded of Zhou Enlai's famous and oft-misunderstood quip about a youthful uprising: "Too early to say."

Instead of taking sides or getting all wistful and in our feelings about Jimmy Buckets moving to Philly, let us deal with what's in front of us. In Robert Covington, Minnesota aquires a well-built defensive hustler with a smooth 3-point stroke.

Is Robert a future NBA Most Valuable Player? Nah, but he could be your Most Valuable Player any given night. That's cool, innit?

Let us also get excited about Dario Šarić, the big boned and lanky Croatian 24-year-old who will not have to fight for time on a squad that needs all-court do-everything big men like fish need water.

Dario's game is wise beyond his years (funny how that happens when both your parents played the game; think: Yao Ming) and it'll be fun to watch Dario grow and develop as a unique piece that fits right in just about anywhere. Dario's not the blade on your Swiss Army Knife; he's the Allen wrench.

Is Dario going to win an NBA Slam Dunk Contest or an NBA Three-Point Contest? No, but he'll win you some basketball games. That's cool, innit?

Here are some facts about Dario Šarić that occur to City Pages on a bright cold morning in November when (for our money) all the clocks are striking 13

1.) That photo up above? That'd be Dario diving on a ball, willfully banging his body on the ground, getting to it ahead of Blake Griffin who quite literally looks and plays like Superman. We're not sure what happened next, but it sure looks like Dario's about to 1.) draw a foul on Blake, 2.) grab the ball, or 3.) scrape it sideways to a nearby teammate before Blake gets his big ass mitts on it. Find us a man who can and will get on a loose ball before Blake Griffin does, and we will be happy invite him to play on our basketball team.

2.) That distinctive look of his. It gives us no small amount of pleasure to recognize that in 2018 A.D., the fascists are resurfacing, proudly popping their heads up not only in this country but in Central and Eastern Europe as well, and Minnesota's new lynchpin might just be a handsome young fella rocking facial hair that is, at first appearances, the exact opposite of a Hitler-stache.

3.) Nobody trolls harder these days like Joel Embiid, budding real estate mogul in other people's central nervous system.  And yet here's what Joel had to say about losing Dario as a teammate

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Dangit Joel, don't you go getting all sincere on us all of a sudden. (Kidding. This is sweet. No doubt Dario and Robert feel good about the opportunity to work with you, too.)

4.) Like, all of this.

5.) His backstory. Here's the good shit.

Long before it became his career, basketball served as a tool to calm down Saric. He started playing as a small child, when he was, he says, annoying” and “hyperactive.” His mother, Veselinka, would spend time with friends over coffee and conversation each afternoon, but every day she faced the same problem: Dario wouldn’t shut up. “She would go to a friend’s house, and she would say, ‘OK, let’s push him out on the basketball court,’” Saric remembers. “‘Let him use up all his energy, and then when he’s done, he’ll be tired and calm.’”Saric was born in the town of Sibenik in 1994, a small city in a basketball-obsessed country, nestled in a region that had long been at war.
Both of Saric’s parents, Veselinka and Predrag, had grown up as basketball players in the former Yugoslavia, a country that produced NBA players Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac and won gold in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow; silver in 1968, 1976, 1988; and bronze in 1984. “You grow up there,” Saric says, “and all you hear are stories about those teams, how amazing they were.” In 1991, Croatia declared independence, beginning a decade of war in the region, as Yugoslavia eventually split into seven distinct republics—Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo. Approximately 20,000 people were killed in Croatia’s war against the Yugoslavian army. By the time Saric was born in 1994, though, the war was nearing its end, Croatia’s independence intact.
Saric grew up in a peaceful Croatia, and as a boy he spent almost every day training at a basketball academy named in honor of former NBA star Drazen Petrovic. By 15, he was a pro, drawing comparisons to Petrovic, the greatest talent the former Yugoslavia has ever produced. A 6-foot-5 two-guard who lit the NBA on fire from 1991 to 1993 before dying in a car crash in Germany, Petrovic has become something of a legend in international basketball circles as a player with outrageous competitiveness who didn’t live long enough to get his due. In 2002, Petrovic was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2009, Croatia’s Super Kosarka magazine was hailing Saric as his country’s next great hope, calling the adolescent “a playmaker as tall as Toni Kukoc and as talented as Drazen Petrovic.”

 

6.) This highlighted sentence, off his Wikipedia page --

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-- and how confident we are that it was Joel Embiid who came up with at least two of those.

7.) This highlighted sentence, off the Wikipedia page of his hometown --

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-- and how if anyone's into wordplay Minnesota's hoops fans can literally say they just adopted a Dalmatian.

8.) What he symbolizes, or might, if he grows as a player and Minnesota and his capital 'd' Difficult head coach let him shine.

See, reader, there are kids growing up in war-torn or recently war-torn countries or neighborhoods plagued by street violence all over this damn world. Dario's gonna play alongside 1.) a hard-working guy from Sudan, 2.) a soulful and bookish hustler, and 3.) a would-be visionary from just up the road who gives all the credit in the world to his watchful parents

And if you ever wonder why certain kids pay so much damn attention to and idolize athletes or musicians or models or actors -- hell, even a well-meaning criminal or two! -- it may be because they need to see someone who looks like them, and was born into a similar life, out there succeeding. Making money. Having fun. Having fans. Making moves and making friends. Working hard. 

Trying to win.