Let us not let this tragedy carry out for another day.
“Larry’s a young guy. I’m probably not playing him enough,” Jim Boylan said with a chuckle when I asked if he at all had to worry about Sanders minutes.
Perhaps the question seems absurd, but I was there and you weren’t and I made the choice to ask it. Why? Because through 39 games, Sanders has now blown by his previous high in minutes played for a season. He’s quite literally playing more than he has ever before in his life. I wondered if there was any fear he’d wear out.
But Boylan is not concerned. As he said, he thinks he might not be playing him enough. So long as he brought it up, I’d probably have to agree with him.
Sanders had a modest game by his current terrific standards Monday night against the Sixers. In 33 minutes he had just nine points and five rebounds to go with his automatic two blocks. You’d think this guy starts the game with two blocks. Only nine times this season has Sanders failed to block two shots and in one of those games he was ejected after six minutes. But I digress.
So his numbers weren’t anything special for a 33 minute night. Especially not when you take into consideration what Sanders has done when he’s played at least 30 minutes before Monday night’s game this season.
In Games with at least 30 Minutes Played: 11.7 points / 12.3 rebounds / 4.4 blocks on 53% shooting from the field.
Impressive numbers. But a possibly (probably) related number that Bucks fans should be even more interested in? Milwaukee is now 9-2 when Sanders plays at least 30 minutes. That was the one stat Monday night had in common with all those other nights. The Bucks seem to win when Sanders can earn 30 minutes of playing time.
The key for him in these games has been staying out of foul trouble (only three fouls per game on average) and keeping a high energy level throughout the game. When he’s doing those things, he stays in the game and the Bucks, specifically their defense, are much better off because of it.
According to HoopData.com, Milwaukee’s defensive efficiency in Sanders’ 30 minutes games is 93.4. That means per 100 possessions, they allow just 93 points. Again using HoopData as a reference point, if Milwaukee played that sort of defense all season long, they would have the league’s best defensive rating. As is, Milwaukee allows 100.3 points per 100 possessions, a rate good enough for seventh in HoopData’s index.
Very good, but not great.
So maybe Jim Boylan is right. Maybe he isn’t playing Sanders enough. But Sanders makes that tough sometimes. On the flip side of these 30 minute games is the games where Sanders can’t seem to stay on the court. In the 28 games Sanders hasn’t played 30 minutes, he’s averaged 21 minutes per game and picked up an average of 3.9 fouls. And he’s been ejected twice.
Oh that ferocious Sanders temper. It comes out of nowhere, from a man who seems so carefree, fun loving and gentle. But it’s always bubbling beneath a smiling surface.
“Larry will be okay,” Boylan said before Monday’s game. “He’s learned a lot this year. This is kind of all new to him. He didn’t play much last year, now suddenly he’s out there starting and playing a lot of minutes. He’s gotten himself into … uh … different situations. He’s just got figure out a way to make all those emotions that he has work for him in a positive way.”
“I’d rather have a guy who is too emotional, than a guy who has no emotion at all. I’d rather try to turn a guy down a little bit, than try to turn him up.”
Boylan admitted Sanders is a “work in progress” both on the court and in terms of controlling his emotions. But as he continues that work, he’s making it more and more difficult for his coach to keep him off the court.
It’s on Sanders temper to do the same.