Larry Sanders renewing effort to return to NBA

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Larry Sanders last played in the 2014-15 season. (Getty Images)
Larry Sanders last played in the 2014-15 season. (Getty Images)

Nearly one year after telling The Vertical that he would pursue a return to basketball eventually, former Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders has ramped up his efforts to return to the NBA by hiring representation and starting team visits.

Sanders has hired agent Joel Bell and has started meeting with NBA teams, including, league sources said, a visit with the Boston Celtics last week. He has three additional team visits scheduled, league sources said. For NBA teams searching for frontcourt depth and rim protection, Sanders could become an option.

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Sanders, 28, has been determined the past six months to return to basketball shape and now believes he is ready, sources said.

“Once my art, music and passions off the court feel stable, I will look into coming back,” Sanders told The Vertical in February 2016. “I still love basketball. I want stability around me, and part of my mindset to leave was not to put all my eggs in one basket.

“I feel highly valuable on any team. There aren’t a lot of people who can bring my game to a team. I still play basketball all the time, staying in shape. I will need to make sure the situation is right for me.”

Sanders, an athletic, 6-foot-11 shot-blocker, became one of the league’s most promising centers during five seasons with the Bucks. He had a career year in 2012-13, averaging 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 71 games, which culminated in his participation with USA Basketball and a $44 million extension.

Sanders receives $1.86 million per year until 2022 through his buyout with the Bucks via the stretch provision. Any future contract Sanders signs would be unaffected.

Sanders’ personal life unraveled from 2013-15, beginning with a Milwaukee bar fight in November 2013 in which he was cited by police but did not face criminal charges. He then was suspended twice for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program and went on a personal leave of absence, which led to the buyout in February 2015.

Since leaving the NBA, people close to Sanders have discussed his seriousness to return to the league. In five NBA seasons, Sanders averaged 6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

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