Ask any Milwaukee Bucks fan what one of the biggest disappointments has been over the last few years, and other than the team’s 15-67 record last season, most will answer the strange story of Larry Sanders.
After two seasons of inconsistent and worrisome play, Sanders had a breakout year in 2012-13, playing in 71 games and averaging 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game that season. It seemed as if the Bucks had found their big man of the future and quickly signed Sanders to a $44 million, 4-year contract extension.And then the bottom seemingly fell out.
Over the course of the 2013-14 season, Sanders only played in 23 games due to a pair of injuries, one on the court, one off. He missed two months at the beginning of the season because of a torn ligament in his thumb that required surgery (which he received due to an altercation at a nightclub) and then suffered a fractured orbital bone in his face on Feb. 6 that sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Then there is the five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug program for marijuana use which he will need to serve this season. As if violating the policy wasn’t bad enough, he then spoke out about his drug use, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we’ve been deprived. You can’t really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same.”
The result was a season that saw his numbers dip to 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, as well as a perception that Sanders’ great 2012-13 season was a one-time event, not a sign of what the 6’11” center is truly capable of.
All told, not the kind of season or behavior you want from a guy you’re paying $44 million.
It’s a big part of the reason why Sanders name has been mentioned in trade rumors on and off all offseason, with sites like Sports World Report thinking that, unless Sanders can impress just about everyone this year, he will more than likely be playing for another team once the trade deadline gets here.
But if that happens, who will play center?
Thankfully, the answer may lie in second-year player John Henson. Listed on ESPN’s depth chart as a power forward but more of a natural center, Henson made the most of the opportunity Sanders’ disastrous season gave him.
He finished 2013-14 averaging 11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in the 70 games he played in and impressed enough people that, according to CBS Sports.com, Henson was put on the trade market as the Bucks tried to make some moves in anticipation of the 2014 NBA Draft.
But holding on to the 23-year-old might become a blessing in disguise over the long run, especially if Sanders picks up where he left off last year and continues on a downward spiral. Henson could easily step in and and become the team’s starting center while rookie Jabari Parker moves over to the 4, making for a very inexperienced, but very dynamic, frontcourt.
Many feel that if Sanders can get his act together, he could be a huge plus to this team with his natural defensive abilities and awe-inspiring wingspan. He has seemingly gotten off to a good start, heading to Las Vegas to work with the Bucks’ summer league team and providing some leadership to the new guys on the roster.
But it’s good to know that if Sanders does go off the rails, the Bucks have another option in Henson that can fill the roll and get the job done.