Report: Bucks looking to buy out Larry Sanders

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Milwaukee Bucks and Larry Sanders have begun discussions about a possible buyout of the remainder of his contract.

Buyout discussions have begun between the Milwaukee Bucks and Larry Sanders that would make the recently suspended big man a free agent, according to league sources.

Sanders has three years and $33 million remaining on his contract after this season. Stein also reported that, as the team works towards a buyout, Sanders is not expected to return:

In 27 games (26 starts), Sanders averaged 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals in 21.7 minutes per game this season.

Since signing a four year, $44 million extension in the summer of 2013, Sanders has played in a total of 50 games, while battling injuries, a variety of suspensions and most recently, personal issues.

It’s remarkable how quickly the situation with Larry Sanders has gone from positive to negative. The one time candidate for defensive player of the year and center of a glowing contract extension press conference at a local Boys and Girls Club quickly turned into an outcast last season. And just when it seemed like he was winning back the public this season, things went awry again.

As recently as mid-December, a feature was written by Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver that hit all of the “he’s working his way back on the court and in our hearts” trope notes. Sanders talked about moving on and being the hero he wanted to be. Golliver noted that he had accepted a reduced role in the best interest of the team and was trying to be a big brother for guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Weeks after that story was published, Sanders was no longer with the team and reports emerged that he didn’t want to play basketball anymore. He surfaced to deny those reports, telling media that he was “in the process of working things out now to do as best for my psyche and my physical health going forward.” Not long after taking leave, Sanders was suspended by the league for violating its drug policy. The suspension lasted for 12 games.

He received a great deal of vitriol from fans and seemed to respond to both the frequent attacks via social media channels and general speculation on what was next with him with a series of occasionally cryptic or combative tweets, the most recent of which simply saying, “Soon you will all know the truth.”

Milwaukee will very likely have to eat a healthy, healthy portion of the remainder of Sanders’ deal, though that doesn’t mean they’re doomed to salary cap hell. The Detroit Pistons waived Josh Smith earlier this season rather than reaching a buyout with him, which cost them the entire $27 million that remained on his deal, but they were able to use the “stretch provision” in the collective bargaining agreement. Per Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, here’s an example of how the stretch provision works:

If the player is waived from September 1 to June 30, then the current season is paid per the normal payment schedule, and any remaining years are stretched over twice the number of years remaining plus one as described above. For example, if the player is waived on December 1 with two seasons remaining on his contract at $10.2 million and $10.5 million, respectively, then the current season (at $10.2 million) is paid normally, and the final season (at $10.5 million) is stretched over three years (one season times two, plus one) and paid in even amounts of $3.5 million per year.

So, hypothetically, if Sanders is waived and a buyout deal is reached so Milwaukee has to only pay $32 million of his $33 million in remaining salary after this season, they would have to pay out that over seven years, which is his three remaining years times two, plus one year. The Bucks could then spread his salary cap hit out over that period of time or decide to take the entire hit as it currently exists, with the $32 million counting towards the cap over just the next three seasons.

Regardless of how the math works, it’s all messy and sad and a blow to Milwaukee’s #OwnTheFuture mantra. Sanders was supposed to be part of that future. At 26-years-old, he was one of the young guys the Bucks were counting on before the season to help turn around a moribund franchise as a new ownership group embarked on a new franchise identity. Alongside Giannis and Jabari Parker, Sanders seemed as sure a bet as any player to be a long term piece for the franchise. That bet was based partly on the impact of the contract Milwaukee’s now trying to get out of, but also because he was one of the few players on the roster that had display legitimate top of the NBA type skills, as a shot-blocker and defender, in his career at some point.

But the NBA is not a simple or stable place. Relationships evolve, for better and worse, over time. We’ve apparently reached a point where the Bucks and Larry Sanders (or at the very least the Bucks) feel like there’s no salvaging this relationship and it’s time to move on.

Categories: Sad and Unpopular



  1. I was newly returned to town for the ’12-’13 season and didn’t have a lot going on over that winter, so I dove pretty deep into that 8-seed disaster of a team, and Sanders’ development/coming out was far and away the best part of it. For all the other crazy stuff going on with BJ and Monta and Skiles getting fired and the horrible Tobias/Redick trade, he was the one piece you could point to and say, “He’ll be here for a long time.” Even his craziness didn’t seem that out of bounds, just a young guy dealing with stuff he’d grow out of eventually. He was a player you wanted, and he seemed to really embrace the city and community.

    So unfortunate how quickly it went down the drain. He didn’t do himself any favors, but that same community that liked him as the out-there weirdo sure didn’t have his back when he got in that fight. Seemed on his way to getting back in people’s good graces, too, until he broke his eye socket. And now all this? Never seen anything like it.

    That ’12-’13 year was amazing, though. No one’s ever going to take that away from him. Good luck to him. He’ll need it.

  2. Just get rid of him and be done with it.
    Zaza is competent in the short term playing alongside a small ball 4…even if it hurts on the defensive side, we have (enough) shooting/ spacing on the other end.

    Go after a big man in the draft, draft a PG with LAC’s 1st rounder, and forget about the man formerly known as LARRY SANDERS

    • Well technically Zaza doesn’t play the 4. And we don’t have LAC’s first rounder until 2017, so I say we keep playing the waiting game with Larry Sanders. Not because I think that hes 100% necessary for the future, but from a salary cap standpoint. If he does not accept a buyout that is significantly less than what his salary is, its going to put the Bucks in a tough situation in the summer of 2017. We will have big contracts signed by Brandon Knight (assuming we resign him) Khris Middleton (assuming the same) Along with Larry’s 11 million and Jabari’s 6.7 million. This is not including draft picks and free agent signings. Giannis’s contract will be up that summer and we will need that 11 million to resign him and stay well clear of the luxury tax, unless Larry Sanders is contributing and taking up a roster spot. The only godsend is the CBA being over soon and a new one will have a much higher salary cap. Never the less, we should not be to short sighted with Larry considering this season is not what we are playing for in the first place. He’s troubled and talented, we have seen it in athletes before and if we have nothing to lose by keeping him around the rest of this year I think we stick with him.

      • He didn’t say Zaza played the 4; he said Zaza would play ALONGSIDE a small-ball 4 meaning that Zaza would play the 5 and someone undersized would be playing the 4 — likely Giannis (due to his weight), Dudley (due to his height and weight), Middleton (again, due to his height and weight), and maybe Ilyasova (if you consider him more of a small-ball stretch 4).

      • Unfortunately, I have to agree with GWEBS. If we can’t buy him out for relatively cheap, it would put the organization in a bad spot financially. Especially since they need to over pay players to keep them/attract them to Milwaukee. Also, with injuries to every front court player this season (and some still battling through them), wouldn’t it make sense to keep our best rebounder and shot blocker as a back-up for when Zaza tears his calf too far, Martin realizes how old he is, or Ersan inevitablely gets hurt again? Just my thinking. Tell me what you think. (Looking at you, Swisch)

        • There’s a lot of good reading in this article and the comments section. I, too, am kind of swayed by the idea that if we’re paying Larry, we might as well keep him, at least through this season.
          I was highly in favor of the big contract for Larry, and have been a big fan of his, and have stuck with him through the downfalls of the last couple of seasons, and still haven’t given up on him — although I will say that his antics are getting more than a little annoying and wearisome.
          I’m getting to the point where a buyout seems like a pretty good idea, that it would be good for all concerned to move on and make a fresh start — but, again, paying him all that money is hard to swallow.
          Even aside from monetary considerations, I’m still wanting to give Larry one more chance, because he’s one of our guys — that is if there is genuine good will on his part, a serious willingness to do whatever it takes to integrate back into this promising team that is growing in Milwaukee.
          If it’s the case that Larry isn’t ready to really be a part of this team, then maybe we should keep him around, anyway, but at the end of the bench, or perhaps in the D-League if his attitude is really poisonous. As he’s been going of late, Larry just might run himself out of the league with his suspensions and such, in a way that does void his contract. Or if Larry really wants to turn his life around, but with a different team, he could demonstrate this by playing well with the Bucks for the rest of this season, and making himself an attractive trade possibility.
          So there may be reasonable things the Bucks can do with Larry if he isn’t cooperative other than just paying him more than $30 million for nothing. The best case scenario is that Larry is truly cooperative, and somehow we can bring him back to good standing with the team, and he can pursue his great potential.
          Sad to say, that happy ending is looking more and more unlikely by the week, but I would welcome Larry back if he’s truly contrite, and proves it. If not, then we might forced to be tough with him — whether it’s the D-League or whatever — so that he doesn’t damage the future of the Bucks by draining salary or harming chemistry.
          I’m guessing that a significant number of fans have been patient with and supportive of Larry, as I’ve been. So the way I look at it, it’s not a matter of rejecting Larry; it’s up to Larry to decide whether he more or less wants to reject us.


          • I think this whole situation is ridiculous. We need to just get rid of him. He clearly doesn’t care about milwaukee and this is the kinda thing that keeps potential new fans away from the team. He is and always has been a locker room cancer so cut bait say F U and watch him walk out. Trading him is so unlikely CURRENT his 3 yr 33 mil contract. If I see Larry around milwaukee b4 he cashes our I’m swinging. If you’ve seen the club video u know he can’t fight. I stuck by him time n time again but this is it for me and it should be for everyone.

  3. Any way you look at it, It’s a disaster for the Bucks. All the excitement about Sanders potential is GONE. Hammond is responsible. He now will have acquired 2 players that the Bucks are choosing to pay NOT to play for the Bucks. Drew Gooden being the other one. I would think that’s enough to get a GM fired. Look for KIdd to get the player personnel power he wants so badly.

    What a mess.

  4. I love the way the young Bucks are playing without Sanders. Kidd’s coaching has been fantastic. The new owners have been exemplary. But this situation is ridiculous.

    Larry has one legitimate playing injury. But also injures himself in a bar fight, has two league drug suspensions, chooses to sit out games for his own mental health … and the Bucks are still required to pay his $37 million salary for the next 3.5 years? If that is the case the league needs to reevaluate its collective bargaining agreement. Without full knowledge of the CBA, the awful choices Larry has made and his withholding of his services … would seem to be a breach of his contractual obligations.

    We see a lot written about the Yankees and the Alex Rodriquez contract. But, this is almost as bad. Maybe even worse since A-Rod at least wanted to play … while Larry has made choices that withhold his services from the team. It comes at an unfortunate time when the team seeks to define their obligation (hopefully well less than $37 million) … While at the same time asking the State for over $100 million for a new arena. Bad timing.

  5. I love the twitter post “Soon you all will know the truth”. First off, we all know that all of the “truth” we will ever hear is anonymous sources saying this or that. Secondly, the truth is that he’s a trouble maker, can’t put down the hookah, and thinks that there’s nothing wrong with that. What does he think the truth is? What is going to shine a light on all this that makes anyone think better of this whole situation? I can’t wait to hear it. I’m sure we’ll all sleep better at night, knowing that Larry sanders has been redeemed, and that the truth has set him free, along with 37 million and a new team…