It’s been 367 days since Dario Saric tore his right ACL in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals. It’s been a long road to recovery — one made even more difficult after Saric underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right meniscus two months ago.

Saric was in attendance at the Phoenix Suns’ first Summer League game in Las Vegas on Friday night, and he confirmed he’s been using his summer to take the next steps toward a return to action.

“It’s been good, since the season was over, I stayed here, working out with the coaches here, preparing myself for the next season,” Saric told PHNX Sports. “I didn’t play last season because of injuries, so trying to get in gaming shape. Last couple days I started playing more with the contact against coaches, so trying to be ready for the next season.”

Back in mid-April, when Saric provided his last update on his potential return to the court from the ACL tear, he similarly mentioned playing with contact against the coaches as the next step he was targeting, after mostly playing “one on zero.” His meniscus surgery in May set him back, but the Homie is progressing toward a return once again.

Rather than return home to Croatia last summer, Saric stayed in Phoenix to get started with his “pre-rehab” leading up to early August surgery on the torn ACL. This summer, he’s once again chosen to stay in the Valley to get himself ready, and he feels comfortable with how his recovery is going.

“The process went really well, it’s going very well,” he said. “Playing against coaches, I’m feeling really good. I can’t really complain after this kind of, like, one-month setback. So I’m happy to be on the court, happy to compete. I hope like next month, I’m gonna really put in work and be ready for the training camp and start the season in the right way.”

In his last healthy season with the Suns, Saric averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game off the bench, shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from 3-point range. He was a crucial part of Phoenix’s impressive second unit, pairing well with Cam Payne, making sharp passes as a playmaker and serving as a “connector,” as Monty Williams liked to call him.

“Dario is in so many ways the heart and soul of our team,” Williams said back in April. “Everybody cheers for Dario, they root for him because he’s just a genuine, authentic person, and to see him out, we all kind of look over there and see him rehabbing and we all feel bad for him. So I think as we go along, we’ll figure out ways to keep him engaged, ’cause this is a tough spot for him.”

Throughout January, Saric could be seen getting work in on the bike at the practice facility. In March, he started getting shots up after practices, including shots on the move:

Over the last month or so, he’s been seen working on some leg strengthening drillsjoking around with Monty and getting some conditioning in.

In April, he started getting up shots with the big man group again:

Now, coming off meniscus surgery, Saric hopes to be ready for training camp. Depending on what happens with Deandre Ayton and Kevin Durant, he may be the Suns’ starting center by default.

For his part, Saric is more focused on his own recovery process than paying attention to all the rumors and speculation.

“I think that’s more like front office stuff, you know, and I’m trying to focus on myself,” Saric said. “That’s the only thing how you can approach and how you can really get better. I can’t really control those things. I really like the guys, and that’s not on me. It’s really hard to comment and give you something like a good answer.”

Author

Gerald Bourguet serves as PHNX's reporter, writing savant and podcast co-host for all things Phoenix Suns. He's been a basketball fan since the day he could say "Michael Jordan," graduated from the Walter Cronkite School at ASU in 2013 with a BA and MA in sports journalism and has been covering the NBA ever since. As a credentialed media member since 2015, Gerald dealt with his Suns-related depression through his writing...until the Bubble Suns changed everything. Now, the Artist Formerly Known as Zewio is just as excited to cover winning basketball as Suns fans are to enjoy watching it.

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