Storyline: Larry Sanders Free Agency

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7 months ago via ESPN

If that spot goes to Sanders, one important member of the Cavaliers sounds OK with it: LeBron James. “It looks like he wants another opportunity, and hopefully, if we’re the team, hopefully we give him an opportunity,” James said before the Cavs held shootaround Saturday morning to prepare for their game against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night. “Why not? Everyone deserves a second chance, and it looks like he wants to get back to playing the game he loves, and hopefully this is his destination. You don’t know how much you can get out of a guy that’s been out so long, but I’d love to see it. Why not?”

“I was young in the league,” he says. “I was using it to handle where I was going. I wasn’t really managing my life at a high level. That was helping me to cope. But in hindsight, while I was coping on a day to day, on a larger scale, it was hindering. Because there were other skills that I needed to learn. Now, being away from marijuana, I’m able to look back on it and understand it and indulge in these other coping mechanisms. I’m older now, too. I feel my brain’s more developed. There’s different things that, chemically, are put in place now, that make me, I feel like a stronger individual, where a crutch doesn’t seem as appealing as it did before. There’s a lot of value in me learning things on my own and dealing with issues head on.”

“I miss being on a team, man,” Sanders said on the phone last week. “I miss going to war with my teammates and fighting against another team and giving my all out there and affecting the game. My children are getting older. I have a boy and a girl, and my son talks about it all the time now, he misses me playing. Giving them something to cheer for, and my family. Having my name on my back, our name on my back. There’s a lot of value in that, there’s a lot of strength in that, for my whole family. Me being that person for them brings joy to me.”

I would say I worked really hard to get to where I was,” Sanders said. “I worked extremely hard. I started playing basketball when I was 17 years old. Things kind of hit me fast. It was hard to manage. I would say I’m more mature. I’m better. I’m at a higher level. I’m a better basketball player. I’ve taken that time to establish those things and get my family in order — not to say everything’s perfect. I took the time that I needed. To convince someone by words, I don’t know what more I can say. The action’s going to be everything. If a team’s willing to take that risk on me, I’m also taking that risk on them, that they’re going to be able to support me and be in my corner. We’re going to be able to understand each other. I believe there’s a team out there that’s like that, that would love a guy like me in their system.”

The Cavs had Larry Sanders in this week to talk to him, but his checkered past apparently is even more checkered than known. A Cavs official confirmed to me tonight they were aware Sanders was arrested last year on a felony charge in Los Angeles, but did not provide any details about the arrest. Late-night attempts to obtain a police report were futile, but according to Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department jail records, Sanders was arrested on June 12 and booked into the Van Nuys jail. His bail was set at $50,000. One Cavs official said he didn’t believe Sanders would be facing discipline by the league should he sign with an NBA team.

Sanders is attempting an NBA comeback, his second chapter in a checkered career. After an earlier workout with the Boston Celtics, one that has been termed underwhelming, Sanders was in Cleveland Wednesday, interviewing with the Cavaliers while they try to also gauge where he is physically. “It was good. It was good,” Lue said. “He’s a good dude. I know he has some negative things said about him, but just meeting him for the first time, just talking to him one on one, I mean, he’s a great guy. You never know, you never understand until you’re around that person and you’re able to talk to that person. With me, everybody I meet always has a clean slate. You have a clean slate until you do something wrong, so he was a great dude just talking to him.”

Cavs looking at Larry Sanders?

The Cavaliers have been talking with the agent for free agent center Larry Sanders, league sources told Amico Hoops early Wednesday. Sanders is 6-foot-11 and last played with Milwaukee during the 2014-15 season. He is represented by Joel Bell. Sources said there is no deal yet between the Cavs and Sanders, but Sanders has made it known he would prefer to play for the Cavs over the other teams showing interest. More than 15 teams have explored signing Sanders so far this season, sources said. The Cavs want to take a good look at Sanders and likely intend to have him conduct a workout.

If everything goes accordingly, Larry Sanders will return to the NBA in about two weeks. What’s more, he could be returning to a team that is bound for the playoffs. Sanders, the former Milwaukee Bucks’ starting center who shocked the basketball world by deciding to quit playing in 2015, recently auditioned for a half dozen teams over a two-day period in Miami. The 6-foot-11 Sanders went through a series of drills and then conducted interviews for the NBA officials in attendance. Sanders openly discussed his past on-court and off-court issues as well as his desire to resume his pro career. “It went very well,’’ said veteran agent Joel Bell, who represents Sanders. “They (NBA officials) had as much time as they wanted to work on certain drills with Larry or to talk to him.’’

Bell said interest in Sanders, whom the Bucks made the 15thoverall selection in the 2010 draft, has increased since he publicly disclosed his desire to play again. “My phone has been ringing very frequently,’’ Bell said. Two NBA officials contacted Thursday both said some team will likely sign Sanders to a pro-rated salary for somewhere around $300,000 for the rest of the season. Asked which teams could be potential landing spots for Sanders, the officials mentioned Dallas, Houston, Boston, New Orleans and Minnesota.
1 year ago via VICE

This summer provided the first murmurs that, finally, he might be ready. On July 9th, he tweeted a picture of the cast from the movie The Warriors. An hour later, he followed up with an oil painting of a cavalier. He trended on Twitter that night, with the basketball media wondering aloud whether this was Sanders’ cryptic way of hinting last year’s NBA finalists were pursuing his services. At some point this summer, they were; multiple sources confirmed to VICE Sports that those two teams expressed serious interest in signing him. Two weeks later, Sanders dropped any pretense of subtlety, polling anyone with an opinion on “which team do [they] believe will utilize [his] skills the best?”
1 year ago via VICE

That likely will not fly. While the same league source admits that Sanders is a “unique case study” in how teams will regard a potential return, he believes that, ultimately, a Larry Sanders comeback could be undone for rather expected reasons. Among them: marijuana, questionable fit in the locker room, and the great unknown of mental health. But the first explanation he offered for why an estimated two-thirds of NBA teams, including his own, won’t touch Sanders is the same one Sanders himself offered: that basketball cannot be the only thing on his mind. “We’re not alone in this way. A lot of teams have a culture where basketball has to be top priority,” he said. “Careers are so short that, if it’s not made a primary focus, you can’t really extract the most out of yourself or your opportunity. And Larry is certainly not in that category. Whether it’s music, art, lifestyle, et al.—basketball is not his top passion.”
1 year ago via VICE

“He’s not DeAndre Jordan, but he’s not too far off,” a league source told VICE Sports. “As a pure defensive specialist center, top five. Top eight. And the thing is, the list isn’t that long. It’s not a top 30. There’s not a top 12. They’re unicorns in that way.” It’s entirely plausible that Sanders is currently the best basketball player in the world not currently playing in the NBA. At the very least, he is the most tantalizing. And his talent is made all the more alluring by the fact that Sanders, mostly of his own volition, chooses not to use it.

Basketball Insiders: How much do you miss basketball? You mentioned that you love the game and once you’re in that culture, it’s hard to just completely remove yourself from it. Do you watch games and still play at all? Larry Sanders: “Oh, I do miss it. I have season tickets for the Los Angeles Lakers and I love watching and dissecting the game. I mean, I love this game. I really do. I love to play it, and I do still play a lot here in L.A. But there were some things about it, some situations, that I didn’t love. But I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.”

Larry Sanders: “Because I started playing basketball late, I had other interests before that. I love basketball and the competition and the comradery and all of that. But, at the same time, I feel like basketball took a lot away from me too. It limited me in a lot of ways. And I’ve been an artist my whole life. I loved drawing. I wanted to be an oceanographer. I’ve skateboarded for the majority of my life. I always had this artistic and rebellious way about me, and it clashed with the NBA culture. It really did. I got to the point where I realized that the NBA is a machine. It’s going to keep running, with or without you. If it can keep running without Allen Iverson – Allen Iverson! – then it’s definitely not worried about me. I knew that, and I also knew they really didn’t have the time to get to know me, to understand me and who I am. And look, I totally understand that. I get that. But I just felt like I had to put myself in a better position in life, to feel more fulfilled. At the end of the day, I’m left with myself, my loved ones and the life I made. I wanted to be someone who was proud of their story. It was always about staying true to myself. I didn’t want to lose myself and who I was for anything. No amount of money. Nothing.”
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