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December 21, 2014 Updates

Sanders quickly went from being hailed as a foundational piece for the Bucks to being derided as untradable. He went from being a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate to a guy who barely contributed thanks in part to a thumb injury he sustained on the same night he was caught on tape heaving alcohol bottles at strangers. He went from being an intimidating paint presence to a player whose season slipped away amid locker-room squabbles and confrontations with referees. How did Sanders get to the point where he was drawing comparisons with Metta World Peace and Dennis Rodman? “If you want to get to know a person, Sanders said, "talk to the person.” Sports Illustrated

Things only got worse when a thumb injury sustained during the fight required surgery that sidelined him for six weeks. Sanders, off to a slow start after signing a new contract that came with leadership expectations, couldn’t have generated a more sensational story if he had tried. “I was trying to indulge in the luxury of being able to walk around freely,” Sanders said. “At that point, I didn’t have a bodyguard. I didn’t want my friends to walk around everywhere with me. I wanted to be on my own and talk to people. I was caught off guard.” Sports Illustrated

In a 2013 profile for Sports Illustrated, Lee Jenkins wrote that Sanders’ father regularly beat his mother when Sanders was a child in Vero Beach, Fla., forcing mom and son to flee and live for a time in a shelter. Sanders was “terrified” that the experiences would desensitize him to violence, to the point that he would accept it in his own life. Feeling "targeted" at Apartment 720, Sanders responded, receiving a taste of that terror in the process. “If you wait until the point of attack to try to counter, it’s too late,” he said. “You’re not approaching the situation with the right parts of your mind. You feel attacked. You go to your natural, instinctual reactions rather than your cognitive reasoning. I learned that I have to be prepared [to be a target]. Thankfully, I learned that in a way where I didn’t have to go to jail, no one got arrested, no one got seriously injured. It was a very valuable lesson learned.” Sports Illustrated

December 20, 2014 Updates
December 18, 2014 Updates

Bucks General Manager John Hammond sensed from his first encounter with Parker that the player’s desire to be special, plus his support system, separated him from other rookies. “He came in for his press conference and I’m sitting there next to him and I’m thinking, ‘Is this guy 19 or 29?’ Because he had that kind of poise, that kind of maturity about him already,” Hammond said. Washington Post

Bucks Coach Jason Kidd benched Parker for the entire fourth quarter of wins against Memphis and Oklahoma City last month. After matching his season low with six points in a similarly season-low 21 minutes in the Thunder win, Parker emerged from the training room with an ice pack on his right shoulder — the result of a strain suffered during summer league — but offered no excuses or complaints. “No need to get back out there if it’s working,” Parker said, while adding Kidd didn’t need to explain his decision for not playing him in those situations. “I can get an idea of what I need to do to stay on the floor. Be aggressive, do things that I can do on the defensive end, to make sure I can do my assignments.” Washington Post

Now Parker is left with a long road to recovery. But he is also left with the measured calm of an “old soul.” And he is left with that imagination he lauded to the children at Discovery World. The scoring touch that propelled him to average 14.3 points on shooting 60.6 percent in six games in December, including a 22-point game against James’s Cavaliers, will do him little good in the days ahead. Wisdom and imagination — tools that have brought him so far already — must now be relied upon once again. “For me, stay consistent, stay on yourself,” Parker said when asked about motivations in November. “The goal is to try to be remembered as much as possible. Washington Post

Parker began fantasizing about a career in the NBA when he was about 6. He grew up watching old tapes of his father, Sonny, a wing with the Warriors in the late ’70s and early ‘80s. He studied the greats while watching “NBA Hardwood Classics” and mimicked their moves at the Mormon Church in Chicago’s Hyde Park. But as he navigated through his lone season at Duke, and his play began to resemble that of a high lottery pick, the dream gave way to angst and the road ahead of him became real. “I was afraid of leaving, afraid of what could happen in the future,” Parker said. “You don’t want to go away from school. You grow up when you go away from school. Nobody wants to grow up.” Washington Post



Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is No. 1 in a list filled with old-school players at the top.


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