Milwaukee Bucks Center Larry Sanders Reportedly Wants to Quit Basketball

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2015

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Update: 7:00 p.m. ET, Jan. 5

According to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype.com, Larry Sanders' agent Happy Walters has issued a statement regarding reports of Sanders' desire to call it quits: "I saw that tweet. It is not accurate at all. Rumor unsubstantiated."

Furthermore, Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler passed along the following tidbits regarding rumblings of Sanders' displeasure: 

Fox Sports Wisconsin's Andrew Gruman added the following from head coach Jason Kidd, who expressed optimism regarding Sanders' return:  

Original Text

While the reason for center Larry Sanders' absence from the Milwaukee Bucks has changed from "illness" to "personal reasons," per Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one may still say the shot-blocker is sick.

Only, this might not be a physical sickness. The five-year veteran could be growing tired of his NBA life, according to one report.

Sources told Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times in Racine, Wisconsin, that Sanders recently informed some team officials he no longer wants to play basketball:

The Bucks haven't shed much light on the situation. Outside of updating the injury report, Milwaukee has mostly kept quiet on the subject.

"It's just personal," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said recently, per Gardner. "There's nothing I can give you more. That's the way the question will be answered."

Even before Woelfel's report, some speculated about potential problems brewing behind the scenes.

"This absence could be as simple as an illness in his family, or a medical condition for Sanders himself of a personal and private nature," Bucksketball's KL Chouinard wrote. "But boy, is it ever hard to believe that stuff given the track record of how these things have shaken out in the past."

Sanders, who signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension in August 2013, had a disastrous 2013-14 campaign.

He suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb during a fight at a Milwaukee nightclub that kept him sidelined nearly two months. He later missed time with a fractured right orbital bone and ended his season by serving a five-game suspension for violating the NBA's drug policy.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 24:  Larry Sanders #8 of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on during warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at STAPLES Center on March 24, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and ag
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Woelfel said some of Sanders' friends told the writer last summer that the center's interest in the sport appeared to be waning:

Last January, Sanders spoke glowingly about his career and the value he placed on being part of a team.

"I love my job, the team, fighting for something, competing against another team," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Lori Nickel. "I love to play but it doesn't consume me. Some people fall in love with the basketball, and what they can do with itbut it's a team sport. I love the team aspect of it."

Sanders, for whatever reason, hasn't duplicated the success he enjoyed during what appeared to be a breakout season in 2012-13.

Prior to this absence, he averaged only 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 21.7 minutes per game. Two years back, those numbers were 9.8, 9.5, 2.8 and 27.3, respectively.

Despite the massive financial commitment Milwaukee made to him, the Bucks have discussed deals involving him before, according to Woelfel. One such exchange, an official told Woelfel, would have sent Sanders and point guard Brandon Knight to the Indiana Pacers for center Roy Hibbert.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 4: Larry Sanders #8 of the Milwaukee Bucks battles for position against Roy Hibbert #55 of the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 4, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

With this report surfacing, though, it's hard to imagine any team being willing to gamble on Sanders—or willing to do so while giving anything of value to Milwaukee, at least.

That backs the Bucks into a corner. If Sanders really is losing interest in the game, his employers don't have any comfortable actions to take.

"It's unclear how the Bucks would handle the situation if Sanders seriously doesn't want to play in the NBA anymore," noted SB Nation's Mike Prada. "They do have the power to suspend him however long they deem fit for 'intentional failure or refusal to render the services required under the player's contract or the CBA.'"

If Sanders doesn't want to keep playing, he shouldn't try to force himself to do so. However, doing so would mean walking away from that massive pile of money along with the franchise and teammates to whom he made a commitment.

The Bucks will continue leaning on veteran Zaza Pachulia, rising prospect John Henson and rookie Johnny O'Bryant to man their interior until Sanders figures out what move he wants to make.

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