Larry Sanders is not your average NBA guy. He’s complicated, a guy who talks of wanting to open a children’s art camp but also admits his anger management issues. The Bucks knew all that when they gave him a four-year, $44 million extension after a breakout season (he looked like a future elite rim protecting big), a deal that kicked in this summer.
Since the ink dried on that contract there has been a nightclub brawl that left him with an injured thumb in need of a surgery that cost him 25 games (then when he returned he suffered a fractured orbital bone in his face that ended his season). There was the drug suspension. There were the charges of animal cruelty. Sanders has missed the last six games this season for undisclosed “personal reasons.”
And now this — he may not want to even play basketball anymore, reports Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times.
Be warned, this could be spin from the Bucks. This may well not be how Sanders saw the conversation (or even how it really went down). That said, we’ve seen this before, big men who play the game because they are good at it and can make a lot of money, not because of an inherent love of basketball. Think Andrew Bynum as the most recent example.
The Bucks are trying to get out from under Sanders’ contract.
Larry Bird and the Pacers may have their concerns about Roy Hibbert, but they aren’t stupid. They would never go for that deal.
Sanders will not simply walk away from the game, and I can think of 44 million reasons why. Money is an amazing motivator. But Sanders clearly has some things he needs to work out, and the Bucks need — at that price, they deserve — a guy fully committed to the team and his game.
Read Ben Golliver’s great interview with Sanders over at Sports Illustrated. Sanders is not someone you can simply pigeonhole into whatever box some want their athletes to conform to. Sanders is a guy who likes to push the rules, and in the NBA there are a lot of rules. That can work for some guys — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was and is a non-conformist, but he had a pretty nice career. To put it mildly.
Sanders needs to figure out what it is he really wants and who he really is. That’s the only fair thing for himself and the Bucks.