The former Milwaukee Bucks center is joining the Cavaliers for the rest of the season with a team option for next season, according to media reports.
Sanders got his chance when another former Bucks center, Andrew Bogut, suffered a fractured left leg in the first minute he played with the Cavaliers after signing as a free agent.
The 28-year-old Sanders has been out of the NBA since February 2015, when he reached a buyout agreement with the Bucks. Sanders has not played since December 2014 when he left a Bucks practice session and never returned.
Sanders was treated for depression and anxiety issues and also was suspended four times by the NBA for drug use (marijuana violations). He signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension with the Bucks in August 2013.
“He’s doing well,” said Henson, who said he talked on the phone with Sanders on Sunday. “What a better situation to be going to than the champions.
“Him taking away time from the game for the issues he had, it shows you it’s possible to handle your business and do what you need for yourself and still have a chance. I’m glad that happened because a lot of players need that, a second chance.”
Sanders earlier worked out for the Cavaliers and he also held a workout for scouts from several teams in Miami.
He was the 15th overall pick by the Bucks in the 2010 draft and played in four-plus seasons with Milwaukee.
But he played in only 23 games in 2013-’14 after being involved in a bar brawl and injuring his thumb. He was involved that season in a locker-room altercation with teammate Gary Neal after a game in Phoenix. The following year he played in 27 games at the start of the season before leaving for personal reasons.
“It’s not all berries and roses and sunsets in the NBA,” Henson said. “It’s tough sometimes and I’m glad he got another shot.”
Sanders could get some time with Cleveland’s D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, to prepare him for the NBA game and possible contributions in the post-season.
“Two years down, not in an NBA game, obviously the speed and timing is something he’s going to work on,” Henson said. “But at the height of his career, he was one of the top centers in this league.”
Asked how strange it would be if the Bucks faced Cleveland – with Sanders – in the playoffs, Henson said, “Go get dinner, man, you know what I mean.
“I’m so happy for him. I was close to him. I kind of knew the stuff he was going through and what he was dealing with. It’s amazing he played at such a high level.
“Hopefully this jump-starts his second career.”
The Bucks still owe Sanders nearly $9 million through the 2021-’22 season under terms of the buyout deal. They used the league’s stretch provision to reduce the salary cap hit to approximately $1.8 million each season through 2022.
Sanders’ agreement with the Cavaliers will not affect the money the Bucks owe Sanders.
|Larry Sanders argues with Rockets players after receiving a technical foul during a Bucks game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Nov. 30, 2014.|
(Photo: Journal Sentinel files)
Cleveland Cavaliers sign forward Larry Sanders, waive Andrew Bogut
CLEVELAND -- Larry Sanders walked away from the NBA. He's coming back to a team that needs his help.
Sanders, who left the league two years ago after five seasons with Milwaukee, signed Monday with the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 6-foot-11 shot blocker brings some needed frontcourt depth to the struggling NBA champions, who are just 2-5 in March and have been giving up way too many easy baskets.
The Cavs have been in the market for a big man since Andrew Bogut broke his left leg just 58 seconds into his debut with Cleveland last week. As expected, the Cavs waived Bogut, who sent well wishes to Sanders on Twitter by posting, ''Best of luck (at)l8show-thegoat Will be watching.''
With one month left in the regular season, the Cavs remain a work in progress.
They're still trying to integrate point guard Deron Williams into the flow and playing without All-Star forward Kevin Love, who is nearing a return after undergoing knee surgery.
Because his game is rusty, the Cavs intend to have Sanders play with their D-League affiliate in Canton to work on his conditioning and timing.
Sanders gives Cleveland some presence inside and another big man to back up Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye - the only true frontline players on the roster while Love is out. The Cavs have been thin up front all season after letting TimofeyMozgov leave as a free agent and Sanders gives Cavs coach Tyronn Lue another option - but also another new player to work into the rotation.
LeBron James is interested to see if Sanders can help.
''An athletic big guy, incredible shot-blocking skills, anticipation around the rim, can finish around the rim and block shots and being able to guard perimeter guys as well,'' James said before the team offered Sanders a deal.
''It looks like he wants another opportunity and hopefully if we're the team, hopefully we give him an opportunity,'' James said. ''Why not? Everyone deserves a second chance and it look like he wants to get back to playing the game he loves and hopefully this is his destination.''
Sanders worked out for Cleveland last month, but the team decided to sign Bogut instead after he was traded by Dallas and then waived by Philadelphia. The 28-year-old Sanders averaged 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in five seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he hasn't played since February 2015.
Sanders was suspended for 10 games two years ago in for violating the league's substance abuse policy. It was his second suspension for marijuana use.