There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Dario Saric. He's not banged up, he's not injured, and for the most part, his shots are open and on target. But he can't seem to get into any kind of rhythm and it's as if there is a lid on the basket.
Historically there is precedent for Saric having a slow start to the season. With his summer life consisting of international basketball with the Croatian national team and more wear on his body than that of his stateside counterparts, Saric comes into training camp and the NBA season with a little less energy than some of his teammates.
There's only so much that can be said or done when a player is in a slump. Joel Embiid said that he tells Saric to continue shooting, and nobody on the team seems concerned about Saric, believing that he will turn things around.
JJ Redick echoed those sentiments on Friday, saying that sometimes there aren't any right words and the only thing that can shake someone out of a slump is one good night on the court.
"People will tell you to keep shooting and like well, yeah, no [expletive] I'm going to keep shooting, that's not the problem," he said laughing. "Sometimes the silent treatment is the best treatment… Sometimes all you need is a just one sort of breakthrough game where you have a really efficient like 9-for-12 shooting night, 5-for-6 from three and you reminder what that feels like and you take off from there."
Last season, Saric shot 34.7 percent from three-point range through October and November and averaged just 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in the first nine games. Things picked up for Saric though, and he finished the season shooting 39.3 percent from three and averaging 14.6 points per game.
But, Saric's numbers through the first nine games of this season are down even by those standards. Through nine games he is shooting just 24 percent from three and 33 percent overall.
Brett Brown has said he believes players need rest, that playing year-round can be hard and burn people out. But, Brown doesn't think that rest needs to come at the expense of Saric missing any games. At least, for now.
"I think it's overrated," Brown said Friday at the Sixers practice complex in Camden. "If you look at our schedule, we've had time off. There has been time off."
There is truth to that. The Sixers had extended time off after their preseason trip to China and have had off-days and down time despite having already played two sets of back-to-back games with a third coming Saturday and Sunday against the Pistons and Nets respectively. And, Saric always seems to improve as the season wears on.
Right now, Brown's response to Saric's struggles is to let him work through it, and if need be, turn to someone else, which was the case Thursday night.
Saric's early season woes were underscored in a 122-113 win over the Clippers on Thursday when he went 1-of-8 from the field including three missed shots at the rim. Watching the team's lead dwindle, Brown elected to play Muscala in place of Saric in the crucial moments of the game.
"It wasn't foul reasons, it was because Dario was down and I felt Mike was going to give us a better chance to win," Brown said of the decision.
So, until Saric can figure out what is keeping him from being productive, that will be Brown's course of action; let Saric work through this and when push comes to shove, go with an alternative player.