KK Cibona officially announced at a press conference this afternoon that they had signed super-talent Dario Šarić (208 cm, 1994) to a 4-year contract.
A surprise move, since Cibona has known financial problems and is struggling to pay their bills and salaries on time. Recently the Croatian club had to travel by bus to Germany for the Eurocup game against Ratiopharm Ulm. Where will the club find EUR 550.000 to pay the transfer fee to city rival KK Zagreb? Maybe “Kent Bank” will do it, since they are sponsoring Cibona? There is also a rumor that says that Croatia’s biggest soccer agent will pay the transfer fee. The latest news mentions “Klemm Security” (why would a security firm get involved in this?). The truth is that nobody really knows for sure, but the media is already talking about a “mystery sponsor”.
In any case, Dario Šarić will have an NBA escape clause in his contract with Cibona after each season. If Šarić chooses to use that clause then his NBA club will have to pay a USD 550.000 (EUR 426.500)buy out to Cibona and on top of that Šarić himself also has to pay 15% of his NBA earnings to the Croatian club plus a regular agent fee to his agent.
Over the last two days Croatian media reported that Dario Šarić was heading to Cedevita Zagreb instead of Cibona, especially after Aleksandar Petrović became the new head coach there. Both Šarić and Petrović are from the small Dalmatian town of Sibenik and that both have a mixed Serb-Croatian family background. Petrović is also the brother of Dražen Petrović, considered to be the best Croatian basketball players ever, and one of the best non-Americans to play the game. Dario’s father, Predrag, used to play together with Dražen Petrović for “Šibenka” in the early 1980s. The 200 cm forward Predrag Saric was built like a tank and often the worst athlete on the floor, but nevertheless he was often capable of bulldozing his way to impressive stats. However, he is most remembered for his main task; acting as a body guard for Drazen Petrovic when he was on the floor. Any opponant who defended Petrovic a little too intense could count on a hard screen a sharp ellbow or some other form of physical abuse from Predrag Saric. Petrović died in a car accident in 1993 and had been playing in the NBA for four seasons.
Cedevita was supposed to have a meeting with Šarić on Tuesday, but re-scheduled it for Friday so they could have all the details in place for their official offer. Not only was that offer expected to be financially more attractive than that of Cibona, but Cedevita as a club is much more stable and also plays in the Euroleague.
So, Cedevita lost the deal of the century because they wanted to meet on Friday instead of Tuesday? The move has been questioned, with good reason due to the importance, but everything around Dario Šarić has been out of the ordinary for months.
First of all, his agent shopped him around Europe and eventually signed him with Spanish ACB team Bilbao to a 4-year deal, then Bilbao immediately sent him on loan to Croatian team KK Split. There was only one problem: Šarić was not a free agent, but under contract with KK Zagreb who didn’t want to let him go anywhere. The contract with Zagreb was signed by Šarić and his parents when Šarić was only 15 years old. Zagreb took the case to the FIBA Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT) requesting a EUR 1 million buyout and this summer an arbitration ruling was given that said that Šarić could go to Bilbao if that club paid a EUR 550.000 transfer to KK Zagreb. The Spanish club refused.
Šarić on the other hand, did not want to return to KK Zagreb and went to court in Croatia, but surprisingly he sued his own parents! Why? Because they had co-signed the contract between Šarić and KK Zagreb when he was still a minor. According to Croatian law, they needed to have permission first from the Croatian center of well-being since a minor was involved. Šarić’s lawyer hopes that the contract with KK Zagreb will be declared invalid due to this fact.
In the meantime, Šarić did not return to KK Zagreb, but stayed in shape by practicing with KK Split. A week ago, the youngster was on the front pages again, this time because he had caused a traffic accident with his Jeep Cherokee while having too much alcohol in his blood. He escaped the scene but was later tracked down by the police. There were three violations from the event: a). causing an accident; b). fleeing the scene and c). driving while under the influence. Under Croatian law there was actually a 4th violation as well, as 18 year olds are not allowed to drive such heavy vehicles as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Despite all this, there were no consequences and no questions were asked as to how an unemployed 18 year old could have a Jeep Grand Cherokee. After all, Šarić still had not signed a professional contract nor earned any money with basketball.
The agent of Šarić was now under pressure (he is also from Sibenik and another former team mate of Dario’s father, Predrag Šarić). Not only had he made a crucial mistake in the illegal signing with Bilbao, but now he also had to ask for a EUR 550.000 sum from any team that would be interested in his 18 year old client. All that, in the middle of the season, while the rosters are set and the budgets spent. Europe’s biggest talent had no club and was not playing any official games! The whole country watched over the shoulder of the agent so he decided to use the media in his favor. Practically every day there was some “news” or “rumor” about Šarić “negotiating with Panathinakos” or “close to signing with CSKA”. All the top-20 clubs of Europe were mentioned at one point in time. The media loved it and made every little rumor into a front page story. A few journalists decided to double check and called some of these clubs to get a quote, but the quote was often: “Dario Šarić? Who? Negotiating with us? That’s crazy! We know nothing. Who told you this?” It was embarrassing.
Last week a done deal was announced with Turkish team Fenerbahce Ulker and Šarić actually spent some days in Istanbul. That “done deal” then turned into no deal and then another done deal with Cibona and then 24 hours later a deal with Cedevita and then again to Cibona. A team with an instable financial situation, a team that currently has no coach (Veljko Mrsic quit this weekend) and a team that supposedly has a “mystery sponsor” who will put EUR 550.000 cash on the table.
Who pays what, when, and how much is not exactly clear, but what is clear is that everybody hopes to get rich and have his moment of fame when Šarić becomes a lottery pick. Then everybody will get their money back, plus a nice profit on top of it. Provided of course that Saric becomes a lottery pick. But, what happens if Šarić, for whatever reason, does NOT become a lottery pick? After all, the $ 550.000 compensation that his future NBA team will pay is roughly EUR 123.500 ($ 159.185) short of the EUR 550.000 that now has to be paid to KK Zagreb. The question is also raised if Šarić is really better off by going to Cibona instead of simply staying with KK Zagreb?
One thing in this saga is certain, Dario Šarić can play basketball and will most likely have a long and decorated basketball career. He’s already proven his skills over the years, most recently at the European U18 Championships, where he led the Croatian National Team to the Gold Medal beating host squad Lithuania in the final with a 39-point performance. He he led the tournament by averaging 25.6 points per game (8 games), ranked second in rebounds with 10.1 rebounds per game, shot 50.5% from inside the arc and 53.8% outside the arc. Topping it off was earning the MVP trophy. As soon as the U18 Tournament was over, he joined the Croatian National Team in the EuroBasket 2013 Qualifiers and in six games he averaged 9.8ppg and 6.3rpg, while compiling a 72.7% shooting percentage inside the arc. His list of qualifications and awards is extensive, and his skills are proven…