Bucks will, and should hang on to Sanders
Feb 8, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives for the basket against Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders (8) in the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Image by Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
He was arguably the best player on a playoff team in the 2012-2013 season. He received votes for the defensive player of the year award, and was invited to join Team USA for a mini-camp in Colorado Springs. Did I mention he signed a 4-year, $44 million dollar contact extension with the Bucks?
Everything was looking up for Larry Sanders - the future face of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise. And then, in a matter of months, it all came crashing down for the Bucks center. Below is an outline of the setbacks Sanders suffered over the past year.
- June 2013 - Sanders suffered a sprained ankle at a Team USA mini-camp practice - just as he was beginning to hit his stride and impress the coaches.
- Oct. 2013 - Sanders' former agent sues his current representation for "poaching" Sanders away just prior to signing a 4-year, $44 million dollar contract extension.
- Nov. 2013 - Sanders tears a ligament in his thumb after his role in a bar fight at a Milwaukee nightclub. Video of the fight shows Sanders throwing punches, and champagne bottles at bar patrons.
- Nov. 2013 - Sanders has surgery on his injured thumb and is sidelined for 25 games.
- Jan. 2014 - With media present, Sanders and teammate Gary Neal engage in a verbal altercation in the Bucks locker room.
- Feb. 2014 - Sanders has his orbital bone fractured in a loss to the Rockets. An injury that would require surgery and force him to miss the remainder of the season.
- Apr. 2014 - Sanders tests positive for marijuana for the third time, triggering a 5-game suspension. Sanders was apologetic, but defended his marijuana use as a means of recovering from injury.
Larry Sanders is a lot of things. He's engaging, friendly, soft-spoken, generous, affable, emotional, quick-tempered, complex, and - at times - troubled. He's a Jeckyl and Hyde act. But I believe he deserves a mulligan. Why? Because of everything that made Bucks fans fall in love with Sanders in the 2012-2013 season.
It wasn't long ago that Sanders was energizing the crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center with his rim-protecting hustle and improved offensive play. Chants of "Larry! Larry! Larry!" rained down from the stands and echoed throughout the arena on a nightly basis. He was 10 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks worth of excitement generating energy every night.
THAT's the Sanders the Bucks are counting on for the upcoming season. THAT's the Sanders the Bucks need on the floor this season. THAT's the Sanders that Sanders, himself, needs to resurrect.
The Bucks summer league team is in Las Vegas with a roster is full of rookies, second year players, and free agents. But as the team prepares for the first summer league game of the season on Friday, Sanders is right there with them showing support and getting to know the coaching staff. His presence with the team has earned the praise of new Head Coach Jason Kidd.
Sanders has a chance to turn things around after a disastrous 2013-2014 season. While it's pleasing to hear he's spending time with the team in Las Vegas, we all know that Vegas is full of temptation. That's the part of Sanders life that needs growth - managing his world off the court.
If Sanders truly understands his importance to the team - and puts the team before all the other stuff - the Bucks (and fans) could be looking at their first all-star since Michael Redd in 2004. I believe he deserves a shot, and I believe he will get that shot with the Bucks.