CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Larry Sanders official return to the NBA did not have to wait another 2 weeks.
With the Cavaliers blowing the Pistons out of the gym by 38 late in the fourth quarter, head coach Tyronn Lue sent the 6-11 center to the scorers table to check in. But not before he sent a ball boy to general manager David Griffin’s suite to get the clearance to do it.
“I had to get permission,” Lue said. “I really just wanted to introduce him to the crowd and have him get in, give him a chance to have a standing ovation. I thought it was good for him. When you go through what he’s went through and you have a chance to get back in the NBA on a pretty good team, I thought it was cool.”
Sanders, just signed on Monday, missed his only shot and recorded 2 fouls in the final 1:58 of the 128-96 victory.
How did it feel to be back on the floor in an NBA game?
“I really wanted a block,” Sanders said smiling. “I just really wanted to block a shot.”
Even with the impromptu debut, Sanders will still spend 2 weeks with the Cavs’ NBA developmental league team, the Canton Charge, getting himself back into shape as originally planned.
For Sanders, 2 more weeks is a small price to pay for an opportunity to resurrect his dormant career.
“I feel confident about coming back to the game,” Sanders said prior to the game. “I’m thankful the Cavs and LeBron supported me in my decision and gave me this opportunity.”
James is thrilled to have Sanders in Cleveland and is prepared to do all he can to help him get his career back on track.
“We’re here to protect him, we’re here to be part of his comeback, to be a part of something he’s been wanting to do for quite a while now,” James said after the game. “We’re happy he chose us and it’s up to us to make sure this is everything he wanted and more. We’re happy to have him.”
Sanders, who hasn’t played professionally in nearly 2 years, will practice in Cleveland Wednesday and be with the team Thursday night against Utah before heading to Canton where he’ll debut Saturday while the Cavs are on the road out west.
Sanders was previously suspended by the league for marijuana use and he had other off-the-court problems including battling depression and anxiety which led to him putting his basketball career on hold.
“I knew I needed space. I needed time away to spend by myself,” Sanders said. “Like I said when I left, when I felt like I was ready to come back, I would. Now is the time.”
Sanders spent a lot of time playing recreational ball over the last 2 years out west in the Los Angeles area and now he feels the time is right for him to return professionally.
“I feel like I came back a little more mature, a little more steady, a little more ready to perform,” Sanders said.
Over 5 seasons with the Bucks, Sanders averaged 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. His best year with Milwaukee came during the 2012-13 season when he averaged 9.8 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Griffin views the addition of Sanders as a “long-term play” and not a short-term fix.
“We are not in a position where we need him to save us,” Griffin said.
Griffin planned to add Sanders regardless of losing Andrew Bogut for the remainder of the year after Bogut broke his tibia less than a minute into his debut with Cleveland on March 6.