Two months into the first season of a four-year, $44 million contract extension to play the game of basketball, Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders has reportedly decided he doesn't really feel like doing the job for which he's being paid so handsomely. According to Racine Journal Times columnist Gery Woelfel, Sanders has alerted "some Bucks officials that he doesn't want to play basketball anymore."
Some friends of Sanders told me last summer they were concerned Sanders wasn't committed to basketball and wanted to explore other options.
— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) January 5, 2015
Forgive the disgruntled reporter in me, but there are a whole lot of other 26-year-olds out there who aren't too fond of their current professions, either, but still show up to work for an annual income that rivals Sanders' daily paycheck (roughly $30,000). Now, money isn't everything, and Sanders certainly has the right to explore whatever else his apathetic heart desires, but perhaps he should have considered that before agreeing to eat up a significant chunk of Milwaukee's salary structure through 2018.
Sanders hasn't always shown the soundest of judgment, and for that perhaps we should be most concerned. His current six-game absence — once termed an illness — is now being described by Bucks coach Jason Kidd to reporters as "personal reasons," so we certainly wish the best for his well being.
As for the Bucks, this latest report can't come as a complete shock. Since the breakout 2012-13 NBA season in which Sanders finished seventh in Defensive Player of the Year voting, earning his hefty raise in August 2013, he allegedly participated in a Milwaukee bar fight, suffered thumb and orbital socket injuries and professed his appreciation for marijuana, missing significant portions of last season as a result.
Draw your own conclusions about whether that last item and Woelfel's report are in any way related.
Oddly, after his disappointing 2013-14 season, the 6-foot-11 Sanders entered training camp this past September with a renewed vigor, accepting a personal failure for having "never really planned ahead" and adding during his media day session, "(I'm) probably as hungry as I've ever been to play, so I'm excited."
Munchies jokes aside, it was hard to imagine a healthy Sanders couldn't be motivated by an injury-plagued campaign and the added excitement of a new coach heading a roster replete with budding stars Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, but health isn't solely physical.
The Bucks have apparently seen the writing on the wall for some time now, dangling both Sanders and Knight to no avail last summer for Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert, according to Woelfel. While Knight's play this season has only increased his own value for a Milwaukee club off to a surprising 18-17 start sans Parker, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear, Sanders' reported disinterest in the game of basketball makes a once promising big man an untradeable asset in the span of roughly 16 months.
While, as BrewHoop's Frank Madden notes, the Bucks can suspend Sanders for refusing to do his job — forcing him to reconsider his work ethic (although that can raise other unwanted repercussions) — their current status as a non-taxpaying club leaves little room for recuperating their share of those funds.
Their only hope, really, is either rediscovering Sanders' love of the game or convincing him to put his money where his mind is and retire to concentrate on exploring those "other options" in earnest.
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