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Larry Sanders has reached agreement on a contract with the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, completing his return to the NBA, league sources told The Vertical.
Sanders and his agent, Joel Bell, traveled to Cleveland on Sunday, and Sanders will undergo a physical exam on Monday morning before signing the deal, league sources said. Sanders’ deal will cover the remainder of this season and likely include a guarantee trigger date for 2017-18, league sources said.
The Cavaliers have informed center Andrew Bogut – who agreed to a contract buyout with the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 27 but was injured in his first game with the Cavs – that he will be released when Sanders is signed, league sources said.
Sanders, 28, has been out of the league since February 2015, when he accepted a contract buyout with the Milwaukee Bucks. He had multiple violations of the NBA’s anti-drug policy, went on a personal leave of absence, and then stepped away from basketball to focus on his personal life. Over the past year, however, Sanders began to focus on returning to the NBA. Sanders hired trainer Stan Remy, who works with Dwyane Wade and other NBA players, and worked out intensely for six months in his quest to return.
Sanders ramped up his comeback effort in late January when he hired Bell and scheduled team visits. He had a seven-team workout in Miami in February and had meetings with the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Cavaliers, league sources said. NBA executives who attended the workouts told The Vertical that Sanders still had elite athleticism and speed and could become a contributor again when he gets into playing shape.
The Cavaliers started negotiations with Sanders after losing Bogut last Monday because of a fractured leg. Cleveland also talked with free-agent forward Josh Smith, league sources said, but focused on completing a deal with Sanders. Bogut was expected to provide shot-blocking and rebounding before suffering the season-ending injury against Miami.
The Cavaliers’ front office is hoping for long-term, high-upside value with Sanders as the franchise pushes toward a third consecutive NBA Finals appearance. Sanders has an opportunity to resurrect his career and make an impact for the top team in the Eastern Conference.
At his peak, Sanders proved to be a good defensive player and developing offensive threat. He had a career year in 2012-13, averaging 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 71 games, which culminated with his participation with USA Basketball and a $44 million contract extension.
In five NBA seasons with Milwaukee, Sanders averaged 6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He was the 15th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft out of VCU.
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