From fun to frustrating: Larry Sanders

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Larry Sanders walked around the Thomas and Mack Center with the assuredness of a player who didn’t need to be there. Last July, he reflected on just how far he had come between the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2013. He laughed about how long ago it seemed to have been when he was fouling out of summer league games and uncertainty surrounded his place on the Milwaukee Bucks roster. That was back when he was frustrated and when Milwaukee Bucks fans were frustrated with him. He had come a long way since then.

Now, he’s come a long way since he’s come a long way, though it’s hard to be excited about where that’s left him. Injured. Suspended. Questionable. His roster spot may no longer be uncertain, but many Bucks fans are no longer convinced he’ll be the defensive anchor and franchise centerpiece he was pitched as last September. Once again, Bucks fans are frustrated.

Surely he is too. What must be most frustrating for Sanders is the inability to do the one thing that could go a long way in making these troubles disappear. Everyone forgives the player who plays well.

While he wasn’t as good this season as he was during his breakout last season, the basketball court was the least of his problems. Before the eye injury that prematurely ended his season, he seemed on the verge of a breakout. He had just set a new career high with 25 points and he grabbed 15 rebounds in the same game. He averaged 13.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and two blocks in the five games before the injury. People seemed to be talking about him as a basketball player again, rather than him as a troublemaker.

Another setback has set back the conversation around Larry Sanders though.

The marijuana suspension isn’t a crime, but the foolishness of it draws forth the exasperation of fans in a similar way. They invest a lot of time and energy into the franchise, and the franchise spent a summer demonstrating a commitment to Larry Sanders, who spent a lot of his summer demonstrating his affection for Milwaukee. It seemed like a great match, before fans had the rug pulled out from underneath them a couple times this season, first with his fight and the ensuing injury and now with this suspension.

He’s owned the suspension, admitted his fault and come out in a rare, forthright athlete interview with the Journal-Sentinel as a proponent for the medical uses of marijuana. Maybe that is something he really does feel very passionate about, but it feels pretty hollow hearing him speak about it for the first time after he’s busted for failing his third drug test.

Personally, I don’t particularly have any issues with people using marijuana, but personal beliefs, whether mine, yours or Larry Sanders’s own, are irrelevant here. His workplace had very clear cut rules about what was okay and what wasn’t okay. And not only did he violate those rules, but he violated them three times! For a guy who often talks about learning from mistakes, he didn’t seem to learn at all from the first two failed tests.

Beyond learning from experiences … doesn’t “I get suspended if I fail another drug test, so I shouldn’t do any drugs for a bit”  kind of seem like something foresight should have caught?

It’s a bummer that the conversation around Sanders has turned sour again. And this seems worse than the talk of his technical and flagrant fouls. While he picked up technical and flagrant fouls with even more frequency this season than he has ever before in his career, the issues he has with his temper on the court can be understood a bit more. It’s a passionate game and if he’s been dealing with this forever, it’ll probably take a few years for him to learn how to handle his emotions on the court.

But following super basic workplace rules doesn’t seem like something that should be a multiple year process. Most workplaces don’t even have multiple strike rules when it comes to drug tests. It’s pretty absurd to have failed so many tests.

So now we have to wonder if Larry Sanders is going to continue to make mistakes that keep him from playing basketball. And now we’ll spend a summer debating the merits of Larry Sanders, Basketball Player and Larry Sanders, Man and Larry Sanders, Franchise Centerpiece.

I’m sure you can almost feel my eyes roll back into my head, my shoulders drop and the air come out of me as I even begin to think about how frustrating those conversations are going to be. But I know the game. I know how fans are and I know people are disappointed and feel hurt. They’ll point fingers, demand satisfaction, make jokes about his contract and make lots of proclamations.

That’s what happens during downtime and all Larry Sanders has had since last April has been downtime. Every time Sanders had a misstep, he was unable to get back on the court to rectify it with his play. He was hurt during the U.S. team work in Vegas. He was hurt in the exhibition season and he was hurt most of this past season.

The only bigger sin a professional athlete can have than running afoul of the law or getting suspended is doing so while hurt. Either do wrong or struggle. Don’t do both. That seems to be the code the vast majority of cheering fans abide by and Sanders has very much violated the code.

So we’ll spend this off season the same way we spent this on season: Wondering about Larry Sanders and where he’ll go next. Bucks fans will bide their time and attempt to temper their frustration. Everyone will speculate all summer, especially if we see him in Las Vegas or making an appearance in Milwaukee or in a video at the Cousins Center or if we hear about all the work he’s putting in at the IMG Academy.

But we won’t really know what’s next for Sanders until the start of next season five games after the start of next season.


Categories: Sad and Unpopular

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  2. I’ve been a big fan of Larry Sanders in an outspoken way on this site — and I feel he has really let me down. I haven’t given up on him, but I wonder if he is really regretful about using pot.
    Even acknowleging his brief run of good play just before his injury — for most of this season, Larry could hardly have been a worse advertisement for the benefits of marijuana, what with his mercurial emotions and especially his lackluster play.
    I’m not totally closed to the possibility of medical marijuana being worthwhile, but am very concerned about how easily this can be abused, and wonder if there might be good pain-relieving alternatives in most or all cases.
    I’m also confused as to why cigarette smoke is considered to be cursed and cancerous, utterly infernal fumes, while marijuana smoke is considered to be a sweet and healthful incense, a panacea for all our ills.
    In any case, the idea is to get the law changed instead of breaking it. I don’t know the details of Larry’s case, but it’s possible he’s mostly looking for excuses to smoke pot. Having written that, I would go out of my way to help Larry if he is sincere about coming clean and getting clean. If he’s playing games with us, then I would do everything possible to void his contract, or to otherwise minimize his damage to the Bucks and their fans.

    P.S. A good start might be a thorough health evaluation to determine any issues regarding physical pain, and also to explore any matters of mental health — including difficult experiences in his past that are unresolved, and the possibility of a disorder such as Bipolar Type II (which could explain rapid mood swings; I have been given this diagnosis recently, after suffering for decades unknowingly; marijuana and alcohol, it seems to me, would only mask this kind of pain in a largely ineffectual way, and ultimately make things worse). God bless you, Larry.

    • Larry most definitely has emotional problems. I doubt that it’s something like Bipolar II and something more characterlogical (i.e., a personality disorder). Bipolar (along with my personal favorite, ADHD) is among the most overdiagnosed mental illnesses. You see these rapid mood changes in a lot of psychiatric disorders.

      Glad you finally got some clarity as to why you have suffered for years, Sfisch. That can be quite a relief.

      My guess is that Larry is just a very emotional person who has developed poor ways of coping with distress. He tends to try and “squash” his emotions so that they often times “explode” as anger. He sees the world as somewhat hostile and unforgiving, but craves approval and validation. He also has a poorly developed sense of self.

      There’s your psychological conceptualization for the day, lol.

      And, seriously, Larry needs to get his sh*t together.

      • Thanks, Phil, for your supportive words.

        I want to clarify that I don’t mean to amateur diagnose Larry. I’m guessing Phil feels the same way. Any thoughts as to what might be going on with Larry are offered with the very humble preface that I don’t really know Larry, just that I’m concerned about him.
        I offered my own experience (hesitatantly) just because I would hate for Larry to suffer needlessly if he does have a condition that isn’t diagnosed. When I graduated from Northwestern in 1984 and was working for a little newspaper outside of Chicago in suburban Lisle (where Frank Kaminsky went to high school), I started to really struggle with things like anxiety and fatigue.
        Since I appeared to be relatively normal, no one suspected that it was a mental illness. I kept hoping the doctors would find anemia or something physical to explain and alleviate my struggles. To make a long story short, it was a long, confusing, and painful journey before I was diagnosed with OCD, then later ADHD, then even later Bipolar II — I’m actually being treated for all three illnesses, and it’s not a fun combo.
        I suspect that these illnesses can be overdiagnosed, but also underdiagnosed, as happened to me, especially when a person generally appears to be pretty much like everyone else. I offer my experience just in case it might apply in some way to Larry, even if his case is still very different.
        As Jeremy wrote, I don’t want make any assumptions about Larry. I simply hope and pray that he gets it together, whatever it is, and wish him the very best.

    • I hesitate to make assumptions about what may be troubling him, but hopefully he, like you, is able to get ahold of what’s causing his troubles.

      I think your point about cigarette smoke and weed smoke is interesting too. I haven’t done much research about carcinogens in either, but people certainly have given weed smoke a free pass, possibly because weed doesn’t have the corporate stench of cigarettes and all of the money attached to it (at least legal money).

    • I disagree with your statement-

      “I’m also confused as to why cigarette smoke is considered to be cursed and cancerous, utterly infernal fumes, while marijuana smoke is considered to be a sweet and healthful incense”

      I dont mean to get on my soapbox here, but this comparison is made merely because cigarettes are perfectly legal (and alcohol for that matter), while marijuana is not…Even though It has been proven to be far less harmful than the aformentioned substances. The public eye has been blinded to the benefits of marijuana and they have been misled about the alleged detriments…Cigarette smoke is considred cancerous and cursed because it is exactly that-it offers no health benefits ad literally kills, whereas Marijuna does not kill at all.

      • Just a side note here:

        Cannabis doesn’t need to be burned/smoked to retrieve the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other medically noted chemical compounds/drugs such as Cannabidiol (CBD) from the plant; and THC is an extremely low toxicity chemical.

        The medically noted drugs from cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways; there’s the form of edibles such as capsules, food and drink, but there’s also the form of inhalation which include burning/smoking or vaporizing the plant. Only the actual burning/smoking form of consumption introduces the cancerous and other well documented “harmful” chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

        Cannabis smoke verses industrially sold tobacco in cigarettes or cigars shouldn’t contain some of the “other” chemical constituents such as polonium-210, lead, arsenic, nicotine, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines, but nevertheless the tar that’s created from the cannibis smoke is still chemically similar to that found from tobacco which can lead to increased risks of getting cancer.

        Over fifty known carcinogens have been identified in cannabis smoke which include nitrosamines, reactive aldehydes, and polycylic hydrocarbons including benzapyrene; therefore, smoking/burning cannabis is still not a very health conscience manner of consumption for the THC drug.

        • Interesting stuff. I’m wondering why smoking/burning seems to be by far the most common way of using marijuana when it is more safe to use it in other ways?
          Also, as far as tobacco, is it apparently so bad for us because of natural properties, or the way it is processed by industry for cigarettes and other products, or a combination of both?
          Is tobacco naturally addictive, and how does it compare with marijuana as far as being addictive? If a person smoked a more natural tobacco in moderation, three our four times a day, would it really be unhealthy? Are there any health benefits to tobacco? Why does marijuana cause a “high” that tobacco apparently does not? — I’m really concerned about people driving under the influence of marijuana.
          All non-basketball questions, I realize, but still relevant to the question of marijuana legalization that seems to be so important to Larry, at least for medical usage. He seems to be risking tens of millions of dollars basically for marijuana — although I’m not sure if I’m characterizing him properly. I am concerned about him, though, as well as for the Bucks and their fans, including children.

          • Smoking/Burning is the most common method because it’s by far the easiest method for anyone to administer the ingesting of the chemical compounds plus it’s one of the most rapid and efficient methods of introducing those chemical compounds into the bloodstream, second only to injection.

            Smoking/Burning, regardless to tobacco or cannabis, introduces “harmful” agents to our body from the carcinogenic tars.

            “Additive” tobacco that’s found in most regular cigarettes introduce several “extras” to the natural tobacco such as aluminum oxide, potassium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, polyvinyl acetate, and a hundred or so others; these are meant to influence all sorts of things with regards to the “experience” and/or “feeling” of ingesting the chemical compounds such as the freshness, flavor, aroma, and countless other reasons for a person to choose one brand or type over another. These additives usually make up approximately 10 percent of the smokable matter within the cigarette.

            “Additive-free” organic tobacco is likely safer in regards to one’s health than regular “additive” cigarettes, but lets not kid ourselves into thinking tobacco, nor cannabis, really offers anything truly healthy for us.

            According to studies by Henningfield and Benowitz, nicotine (found in tobacco) is more addictive than cannabis, caffeine, ethanol, cocaine, and heroin when considering both somatic and psychological dependence; however, due to the stronger withdrawal effects of ethanol, cocaine and heroin, nicotine has a lower potential for somatic dependence than these other substances.

            The usually desired “high” feeling you can get from cannabis is directly linked to the THC found within the plant. THC causes several effects to occur to ones body such as a sense of relaxation, alteration of visual, auditory, and olfactory senses, plus it can lead to fatigue and appetite stimulation. Not to mention, THC has mild to moderate analgesic effects which can help with pain management as well as antiemetic properties which reduces aggression.

            The usually desired “buzzed” feeling you can get from tobacco is directly linked to the small amount of nicotine found in it. Nicotine is a stimulant and is reported as helping to bring a sense of relaxation, sharpness, calmness, and alertness to ones body, but that’s usually only if the body has built up a tolerance to the chemicals; otherwise, a common experience for those new to the chemical is nausea, dizziness, increased blood pressure, narrowed arteries, and a rapid heart beat.

            On the possible good side of health related things for tobacco studies have shown that the nicotine chemical itself can help reduce the chance of preeclampsia and atopic disorders such as allergic asthma and while tobacco smoking is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, there is evidence that the nicotine itself has the potential to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Nicotine also has been shown to delay the onset of Parkinson’s disease, help adults suffering from autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy, and improve the symptoms of depression; however, these studies are focused simply on finding practical health uses for the nicotine chemical and not as a supporter for smoking tobacco.

            While any type of chemical toxicity within the body will likely have an adverse effect on one’s capability to react and respond as quickly as one could otherwise do during operating a motor vehicle the effect of cannabis on a motorist pals significantly in comparison to alcohol; and as with alcohol, the body’s tolerance level as well as the quantity percentage of the chemical within the body will cause differences for different individuals.

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  4. Very well said Jeremy, you capture my emotions of this situation very well. Whether Larry Sanders ever comes back is of no matter to me anymore because he betrays the trust of the franchise, his team mates and the fans repeatedly.

    He needs to surround himself with good people, day and night, who have his best interest in mind. Otherwise, he will be off into oblivion as just another freak show.

    I feel that the best we can hope for now out of Larry Sanders is the guy with lots of potential.

    Thanks for your article.

  5. Most of the issues come from the racial disparities in the state of Wisconsin and city of Milwaukee. It’s sad but true, and it’s been happening forever. I feel for him. It very rare to find a person of color who wants to play here because of it. This goes back since the jabbar days when he said there’s not enough culture in Milwaukee and requested a trade, sanders isn’t the first. There were about 5 last year alone who wanted to get away. Unintentional racism. Can’t blame em

    • This is certainly a relevant point that is pretty undersold. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Very much agree with the article. His personal stance is his own and he is welcome to it. I don’t think his argument is wrong but the timing is. If he can’t see that, he hasn’t grown as much as we gave him credit for.

    Larry has the future in front of him so we’ll see what kind of man he chooses to be. I hope he can become the leader we thought he was.

  7. the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol: Millions
    Deaths by Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever


  8. 20 years behind us Wisconsin…unreal…grow a pair and get some freedom, scrubs