According to a radio interview that Gery Woelfel did with Bill Michaels of WSSP 1250, Larry Sanders reportedly punched Mike Dunleavy, Jr. in a locker room incident during the 2012-13 season.
Given the miserable string of incidents that marred Sanders’ 2013-14 season, finding out an extra one from the season prior is unsurprising, yet it adds to the long list of issues that Sanders has amassed during his four-year professional career in Milwaukee.
Below is a transcription of the interview and further below is an embedded version of the audio of it. The relevant portion starts around the 11:55 mark.
Bill Michaels: If you’re going to trade Larry Sanders, who are you going to trade him for or what are you looking for in return?
Gery Woelfel: A third-round draft pick. (Chuckles).
Michaels: What do you say to a bag of basketballs?
Woelfel: That’s how I feel about Sanders. To me, it’s addition by subtraction. I’ve talked to enough players, enough coaches in the last 2-3 years.
Michaels: He’s just that much of a negative influence? Because a year ago we were thinking that this guy called out Monta Ellis, he called out Brandon Jennings in the locker room and said, “Quit worrying about your contracts. Let’s concentrate on the postseason.” And we were thinking this guy is great. This is what you want. And my God, did it turn around in a hurry.
Woelfel: Yeah, I mean it’s one thing to make comments behind closed doors about guys if you’re a player. But when you physically hit them, that’s quite another thing. And everybody knows about the Monta Ellis incident.
Earlier that same season — which didn’t go reported until I found out last season, if that makes sense — was that early in that season he and Mike Dunleavy had a confrontation. Dunleavy was sitting in front of his stall after a game. They’re talking about sharing the ball blah blah blah and Sanders walks over and says ‘helloooo’ and clocks him.
Woelfel: Yeah. You know? I mean come on. You know? You can’t pull that stuff. He’s just… he’s gotta get it and I don’t know if he ever will.
A few issues strike me about this report. First, Sanders did another stupid thing. Add it to a long, long list.
Secondly, if true, this punch happened as part of a tumultuous but productive 2012-13 season that preceded his contract extension. The Bucks would have known about it (and a scad of other issues) before he got his 4-year, $44 million extension in Summer 2013.
Third, I don’t recall having heard about this incident before in any way, shape or form. Dunleavy got punched by Sanders? I would remember that one, I think.
Evidently, Woelfel reported the Sanders punch without naming the recipient. In a story dated December 9, 2013, he wrote, “I was recently told Sanders had punched another teammate in the team’s locker room earlier in the (2012-13) season.” A month later, Woelfel hinted at the conflict again when he tweeted that the two players didn’t like each other when Dunleavy gave Sanders a hard but perfectly reasonable foul.
A short recap of Larry Sanders incidents:
April 19, 2012: Sanders tries to fight all the Indiana Pacers. Nary a teammate rushes to his defense. He later gets suspended for two games.
2011-12 season: Sanders amasses seven technical fouls and a total of two ejections.
Oct. 22, 2012: Sanders is suspended for a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors. It remains unclear exactly why he was suspended, though here are comments from him on the matter in a later feature story by Lori Nickel (Note: The Dunleavy thing might have been mutually exclusive, or it might not have been.):
“It shouldn’t have gotten where it did – but it helps now,” said the 24-year-old Sanders. “I see it a lot, teammates have disagreements. When those things are handled in the beginning of the season? Usually things are good. But when they are handled at the end of the season, things are lingering and fester. This was something that had to be kind of handled.
“I consider myself as a leader in a lot of ways. And at that point I had to kind of establish my respect. It was only so that my word could kind of be heard a little bit more. At that point I was kind of cast down a little bit because I was young, And so that was what that disagreement was about. It made us better teammates. Me and that guy are closer now and I feel like the team is closer now.”
January 2013: Sanders is cited twice for cruelty to animals for leaving his dogs out in the cold.
March 13, 2013: Three thumbs and a ejection.
March 15, 2013: Sanders gets ejected for the second game in a row and later earns a $50K fine for using a “derogatory and offensive term and publicly criticizing the officials”.
March 22, 2013: Sanders caps a busy March with an ejection against Indiana.
April 25, 2013: Larry gets into a locker room dustup with Monta Ellis following a Game 3 loss in the playoff series with the Heat.
2012-13 season: Sanders accumulates 14 technical fouls, five ejections and six figures worth of fines.
August 20, 2013: The Bucks sign Sanders to a 4-year, $44 million extension that puts him under contract through 2018.
November 2, 2013: Larry breaks his thumb in a nightclub and hurls bottles everywhere. Criminal charges against him are later dropped.
January 5, 2014: Gary Neal suggests that Sanders try earning his money sometime.
April 2014: Sanders earns a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy, meaning that he flunked three league-mandated marijuana tests.
2013-14 season: Sanders picks up six more technical fouls and an ejection in 23 total games played.
Mixed into that two-year timeframe are about 100 games of regular-season basketball. What is perhaps most notable is that a large number of the outbursts preceded the extension. General manager John Hammond had to weigh Sanders’ defensive productivity against his locker room demeanor, his offensive ineptitude, his propensity for ejections and fights, and somehow Hammond still managed to tie the Bucks into a deal without getting much of a concession on price and/or contract length. And while this could seem like a lot of handwringing with the benefit of hindsight, this is actually the rare, interesting scenario in which the party that made this deal (Milwaukee) had more information before the deal happened, and still consented to it without getting a discount.
Again, it’s worth repeating for a third time: Without a discount!
Amazingly, there is still time for the Sanders contract to help the Bucks. He could still yet figure out a way to help in Milwaukee. His contract could fetch an asset via trade. He scored 25 points in his final game before suffering a season-ending face fracture; if he becomes that guy who doesn’t clunk up the offensive spacing and timing, then the deal is a steal.
More and more, though, the long list of temperamental crap that happens on and off the court is starting to make Hammond’s risky deal appear to be more of a liability.