Bucks solidify cornerstone
Reward Sanders with multiyear contract extension
He is one of few holdovers in the wake of the Milwaukee Bucks’ summer overhaul of 2013.
Bradley Center fans chant his name, and he has been called the face of the franchise.
He ranked third in the voting for the 2012-13 National Basketball Association Most Improved Player Award.
He was invited to USA Basketball's minicamp for the game's top 25-and-under players in Las Vegas this summer.
And on Aug. 20, the Milwaukee Bucks announced that Larry Sanders has been rewarded with a multiyear contract extension by the Bucks, signifying his status as one of the cornerstones of their team.
“By combining his God-given ability with hard work and determination, Larry has developed into one of the top young defensive players in the league,” Bucks General Manager John Hammond said. “He is a very important part of what we are doing in Milwaukee, and we’re excited to announce his contract extension.”
Sanders’ rewarding year reached a setback when he sustained a left ankle injury during the second day of the USA Basketball minicamp and was forced to miss the remainder of it.
Sanders is, however, expected to be 100 percent for training camp this fall. He even showed up at the Bucks Training Center six days after being hurt to get up a few shots before taking some time to talk about his – and the Bucks’ – busy summer.
“I’m feeling better,” Sanders said. “Every day’s better. I keep moving in the right direction and keep getting some good treatments. “I’d say maybe by next week at this time, I should definitely be back in the gym, moving at a good pace.”
He was admittedly disappointed with his setback, which relegated him to spectator status the Team USA Showcase game.
“It was something I’d been looking forward to ever since I was selected,” Sanders said. “I spent the whole summer preparing for it. Unfortunately I got hurt, but it won’t be my last chance.”
Sanders was encouraged with the feedback he received from Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff.
“They all had really positive things to say,” Sanders said. “They like the way I think the game. They saw me do a lot of good things teamwise. My main focus was to make sure my presence was felt, as far as helping the team be better.”
Sanders can’t wait to step up his summer activity once his injury fully heals.
“I’ll be back and forth between here and some other places, probably L.A. a little bit,” he said. “I’ve got some guys I want to get in the gym with … see if I can learn some things from them. I’m working out with Paul George and DeAndre Jordan out in L.A., as well as some workout guys. I want to hit certain areas and learn from different people.
“I keep working to get better. I want to build on the success we had last year. We went to the playoffs, and I want that to be a tradition thing. When teams look at us, I want them to look at us as a postseason team. I think we can definitely grab that and keep working forward. With the team we have now, we have so many young pieces. With everyone working as hard as they will work, we’ll definitely be where we want to be come next April.”
Sanders looks forward to taking on a greater leadership role in Milwaukee.
“I’d say I made strides in that direction last year and I want to keep building on that,” he said. “I’m not the ultimate leader, but that’s my goal. I’m going to keep working toward that and stay in these young guys’ ears constantly. I remember being in their position like it was yesterday. We have to get everybody on the same page.”
He is enthusiastic over the Bucks’ hiring of Larry Drew as their head coach.
“He’s a great guy,” Sanders said. “I love our relationship so far and what we’re building on. I think we both have our minds set in the same directon as far as the team, so that’s great. I’m really looking forward to all of us working together and piling up wins this season.”
Sanders hopes to help apply something in Milwaukee that was stressed during Team USA minicamp.
“They talked a lot about unity, which is great … how everybody has to not really put their egos aside, but join egos for the USA ego – individuals putting everything aside to help the team win,” he said. “They all have the same goal in mind, and having that mindset going forward.
“I think that’s something we can bring to the Milwaukee Bucks, and just get everyone pointing in the same direction and focusing on contributing to win the game. I’m excited about how much better of a team we could be if everyone had that same mindset.
“Unity isn’t something that should be addressed in the playoffs. It should be addressed in the preseason, before we ever play a regular-season game. And everything will be ironed out. You go through situations and learn from them. You learn how to handle situations and how to do things better. I think we learned a couple things the last couple of years. We need to put those things in action and hopefully be successful.”
Sanders looks forward to playing with his many new teammates, including point guard Brandon Knight, acquired from the Detroit Pistons along with forward Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov in a July 30 trade for Brandon Jennings
“Brandon Knight’s a tough player,” Sanders said. “He plays really hard. Every time I’ve played against him, he’s been a tough competitor. Sometimes he gets out of position and gets down too low and gets his shots blocked and stuff, but he won’t have to do that anymore. He can focus all of his energy up top.
“I see him running the pick-and-roll … hounding guys – he’s a really good defender. He’ll really help our team as far as guarding up top. He can push the ball. He has a lot of speed. He’s a great addition to the team.”
Sanders welcomes the Milwaukee return of veterans Carlos Delfino, Luke Ridnour and Zaza Pachulia, all reacquired by the Bucks over the summer.
“For sure,” Sanders said. “They’re some good guy. Everybody’s going to be pushing our team in the right direction, and that’s something to look forward to.”
Throughout the whirlwind summer, the Bucks reaffirmed their confidence in Sanders, and that fact was not lost upon him.
“It’s awesome to know that they have that much faith in me as a man, as a person, as a basketball player,” he said. “And I won’t let them down. This step is something I’m ready for.”