Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders has been away from the team since Dec. 23, originally because of the flu, but eventually because of what coach Jason Kidd dubbed "personal reasons." Now, a report by Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times suggests that whatever is dogging Sanders is enough to make him want to quit the game.
"Larry Sanders recently told some Bucks officials that he doesn't want to play basketball anymore," Woelfel tweeted. Woelfel later suggested that friends of Sanders were worried about his commitment to the game over the summer.
These rumors come as Sanders begins a four-year, $44 million contract that was signed prior to last season. It's unclear how the Bucks will handle the situation if Sanders seriously doesn't want to play in the NBA anymore. They do have the power to suspend him however long they deem fit for "intentional failure or refusal to render the services required under the player's contract or the CBA."
Kidd last addressed the Sanders situation on Jan. 2, saying only that there was "nothing more I can give you" besides his absence due to personal reasons. Sanders has missed Milwaukee's last six games, and he also missed a game earlier in December after being suspended for shoving Nicolas Batum of the Trail Blazers.
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This is the latest twist in an odd year-plus for Sanders since he signed that extension to stay in Milwaukee just before the 2013-14 season. A breakout 2012-13 campaign convinced Bucks officials that Sanders could develop into one of the league's top rim protectors, but he has experienced setback after setback since.
He broke his thumb early last season in a fight at a Milwaukee nightclub, which caused him to miss the beginning of last year. He returned for two months, saw his production plummet and was knocked out for the season in early February when he fractured an eye socket. Sanders also got into a locker-room altercation with former teammate Gary Neal and was suspended for five games for using marijuana, later speaking out against the league's drug policy. Frustrated by his lack of progress, the Bucks tried to trade him -- they reportedly offered him and Brandon Knight to Indiana for Roy Hibbert -- but teams were wary of taking on Sanders' contract.
This year under Kidd was supposed to be a fresh start. Before the season, Sanders vowed to put his problems behind him, saying he's "probably as hungry as I've ever been to play." He had no off-court troubles for a month and a half, though his production was again down from his 2012-13 levels. However, he again finds himself at the center of a controversy.
The Bucks are 18-17 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference after posting the league's worst record last year. Without Sanders, Zaza Pachulia and John Henson will receive more playing time.