What a difference a year makes for Larry Sanders in Las Vegas

It's all high fives and handshakes for Larry Sanders in 2013. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
It’s all high fives and handshakes for Larry Sanders in 2013. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

We’re really not far removed from the disastrous trip Larry Sanders took to Vegas a year ago., but I don’t know how that could feel any more distant when you speak to Larry Sanders today. He literally fouled out of a game in which he was given 10 fouls to work with. He’s gone from a “project that was proving to be one” to “active, vocal and encouraging on the bench” despite not even being on the summer roster.

And if you don’t think Larry Sanders thinks about that kind of thing, then you don’t know much about Milwaukee’s thoughtful defensive centerpiece.

“It seems like a day ago that I was here … foulin’,” Sanders said with a smile and a big laugh Tuesday night.

“I do (reflect on last summer),” he said. “It’s almost like a dream, you know?  But it’s awesome. Things can change really fast and I think I had a pretty good year. That experience is gone and it helped take me further in my career.”

Now Sanders is in Vegas as both a leader for Milwaukee’s summer hopefuls and a hopeful himself, as he’ll be taking part in the Team USA camp next week. He sits on the bench for every game, clad in a Milwaukee Bucks t-shirt and cut off sweat pants shouting encouragement and instructions almost non-stop.

One moment on Tuesday he was letting John Henson know his pass out of the post was the correct decision and another he was pulling aside Ish Smith during a free throw to provide decision making guidance.

“I would say it’s just good to be with these guys, to make them comfortable,” he said. “Let them understand that it’s a game, you gotta go out there and play and I think they understand that. It’s cool to be a part of that.”

Sanders isn’t one for individual goals. He rarely speaks outside of the context of discussing the Milwaukee Bucks as a team. He said he didn’t have any grand individual aspirations for next season, but he did want to build on what he felt like the Bucks started last year. There have been some big roster changes, but Sanders believes the Bucks have a core to build around.

“We went to the playoffs, but we didn’t max out our potential,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll let it go to waste again. The pieces that we’re building around, our core now, I don’t see that going to waste. I’m excited about us reaching our full potential as a team.”

A part of that core with Sanders is forward John Henson, equally as long and probably more skilled offensively than Sanders himself despite being two years younger. Sanders and Henson have gotten along famously this off season. They workout together at the Cousins Center, they hang out at festivals and they both seem to enjoy using both Vine and Instragram Videos.

Most importantly, they pretty much have limitless potential thanks to incredible wingspans, rebounding prowess and athleticism for their size. Some how, lineups that included both Sanders and Henson struggled defensively last season (104.7 defensive rating), but the two played just 107 minutes together all year. It’s safe to say they expect that number to grow exponentially this season and the results to be quite a bit different.

How much the two young bigs like each other may seem inconsequential, but chemistry problems could have helped play a role in torpedoing Milwaukee’s season last year. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis could never really figure out a way to co-exist on the court, the rotating lineup of bigs seemed to have everyone on edge and, most famously, Sanders supposedly had it out a bit with Ellis in the playoffs. The Bucks seem to be taking steps towards ensuring they have a cohesive and focused locker room this season though.

“We got good chemistry,” Sanders said of he and Henson. “We hang out together all the time, so it’s great. A lot of guys are around Milwaukee on the team. We just want to bring the new guys in and keep building that chemistry.”

All of those around the Bucks this summer league seem to be excited about the chemistry. And the new staff. Larry Drew and company haven’t been around too long, but if first impressions are as important as folk lore would have you believe, they’ve set themselves up for some success.

“The staff is great,” Sanders said. “They are really positive and they’ve already made such an impact on the organization. So we’re looking forward to our relationship, me and LD’s (Larry Drew) relationship and building on that.”

Building something around or even with Larry Sanders seemed out of the question as recently as a year ago and now he’s a focal point of the organization. Yeah Larry, I’d say you had a pretty good year.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in…

9 Comments

  1. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I was calling for Larry’s head during summer league last year. He was playing terribly and I wanted the bucks to trade him. Little did I know that would be quite an idiotic move.

    • we all were.. I was as vocal as anyone that we needed a replacement.. his turnaround has been nothing short of amazing

  2. last summer, i thought it was hopeless for larry. now, he and henson are my favorite Bucks. Larry is the undisputed leader of this team

  3. Larry Sanders is “THE MAN”! Did you hear that Jennings??!! You could learn something from him

  4. I love that they keep talking chemistry and I believe it.. but one thing is annoying to me, the man that dictates on-court chemistry is not gonna be a happy camper.. hasn’t been paid and already been replaced(mentally).. we need to get that situation remedied, whether they still try to move him or has a sit down apology session or something.. Get It Done

  5. Maybe if Brandon Jennings took an attitude change and a style change on the court the bucks could go farther that just the so called max potential we think of as the 6-8th seed. Imagine having Jenning and Sanders both being vocal and leaders with henson and mayo to throw in the mix. Along with that the bucks are stacked with role players and if the coaching is right along with the attitude change by BJ then maybe… just maybe this team could go for bigger and better

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  7. Well for this team to be better than 6-8th seed they would need Giannis to be an impact player immediately and he won’t be that. Will Henson be better defensively and can sanders improve offensively? With Luke back can those to jell like they used to? A steady hand when Jennings is struggling? I think the bucks should be able to put a very nice shooting team out there Jennings mayo delfino erson sanders would be a lineup that put points up