LOS ANGELES – Dario Saric will tell you what occurred Friday night is proof that “The Process” is working.
The 76ers power forward and teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons not only played in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge, they all started for the World team.
“All the things with Bryan [Colangelo] and Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown, what they did together for the 76ers organization [is paying off],” said Saric, a native of Croatia. “It’s a big thing to share the [World team] locker room with those guys.”
None of their selections was surprising to the game that pits 10 first-and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year players from around the world. The World team rolled to a 155-124 victory at the Staples Center.
Arguably the best center in the league, Embiid (Cameroon) will also participate in the NBA All-Star Game and the Skills Challenge.
Simmons (Australia) is the front-runner to win rookie of the year and was considered an All-Star Game snub. Meanwhile, Saric was last season’s rookie of the year runner-up.
Simmons finished with 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting. He also had a game-high 13 assists, six rebounds, four steals and four turnovers in 22 minutes, 45 seconds of action. The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder said he hopes to make the All-Star Game next year.
Simmons was asked why he thought he was not selected as an all-star this season.
“I think just votes,” he said.
Saric had 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting in 21:20. The World team’s Bogdan Bogdanovic (Sacramento Kings) was named the game’s MVP. He finished with 26 points while making 7 of 13 three-pointers. The U.S. team’s Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics) finished with a game-high 35 points to go with 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Embiid had five points in eight minutes. He saw limited duty because he was just starting a busy weekend.
The Skills Challenge is part of All-Star Saturday, which begins at 8 p.m. The All-Star Game will be at 8 p.m. Sunday. Both events are at the Staples Center.
Originally, it was believed that Embiid would sit out the Rising Stars and/or Skills competition because of a nagging sore right ankle. He missed the Sixers’ victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday because of the injury.
“The last two days, it’s been feeling better,” he said Friday. “But there was never a [thought] about missing out any of these events.
“This is my first time. So I’m going to have fun.”
Embiid didn’t compete in the Rising Stars game last season, sitting out with a left knee injury.
He was elated to share this year’s experience with Simmons and Saric. He talked about the chemistry the trio and the Sixers as a whole are building. At 30-25, the Sixers have the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Embiid, Saric, and Simmons are playing huge roles in the team’s success.
“I love those guys … being with them, I don’t feel like I’m by myself,” he said.
However, there is some disappointment: Embiid wanted Simmons to join him in the All-Star Game.
“He’s not,” Embiid said. “So it’s now kind of awkward.”
Now, he’ll experience that game alone. Embiid is sure he’ll have fun anyway.
But he definitely cherished Friday.
“Being with them here is amazing,” he said of the Rising Stars game. “I love it.”
Saric said having all three starting for the World team shows that all of the hard work the Sixers organization put in the past four years is paying off.