Bad night out leads to long hangover for Sanders, Bucks
MIAMI—Larry Sanders will not be on the court tonight when the Milwaukee Bucks face the defending league champion Miami Heat in south Florida.
In fact, Sanders will not be playing for the Bucks for the next six weeks after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
The Bucks confirmed that Sanders sustained the injury off the court during an altercation at a downtown Milwaukee nightclub in the early-morning hours of Nov. 3.
No criminal charges were brought against Sanders or anyone else involved in the incident following an investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
But the incident already has taken a major toll on Sanders’ season, likely putting him on the sidelines until late December. The Bucks play 23 games before Christmas Day, more than one-fourth of the season.
Sanders was trumpeted as a major piece in the Bucks’ rebuilding plans during the summer. He signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension after finishing third in the league’s most improved player voting last season.
Instead of embracing his role as one of the franchise’s young stars, Sanders seemed to go in reverse.
He was in foul trouble in the season opener in New York and made little impact, playing just 12 minutes in a Bucks loss to the Knicks.
Sanders was limited to 18 minutes the next night in Boston as veteran center Zaza Pachulia helped lead Milwaukee to a comeback victory over the Celtics at TD Garden.
And the 6-foot-11 Sanders played only 6 minutes in the second half and did not play at all in the fourth quarter in the home opener against Toronto.
The incident at Apartment 720 occurred a few hours after that game ended.
Sanders apologized to his teammates and Bucks fans for his behavior.
“For everyone I let down. I’m going to get better, going to be better,” Sanders said last week. “I’m going to get better at this, on and off the court. I’m going to come back better. I just thank everyone for their concerns and being patient with me.”
The Bucks also will be without several other key players Tuesday when they open a three-game trip that includes stops in Orlando and Indianapolis.
Power forward Ersan Ilyasova remains out with a sore right ankle and guard Luke Ridnour is sidelined with a sore back.
Ridnour did not practice Monday before the Bucks left for Miami, but coach Larry Drew did express some optimism about the veteran’s progress. Ridnour has not played in the regular season and has received two cortisone shots to relieve pain in his back.
“You know what? It looks like he’s moving around a lot better the last few days,” Drew said. “He was out here shooting around. That’s a very, very encouraging sign.
“I know how back injuries can be and they can really limit you. This was the best he’s moved around in a few days.”
Drew also said Pachulia, who has played well in Sanders’ absence, was held out of practice Monday due to a sore foot.
Pachulia played 41 minutes in a Bucks victory over Cleveland last week and toiled 38 minutes against Dallas on Saturday.
When Ilyasova returns it will help the Bucks’ front-court depth and ease the minutes burden on Pachulia and second-year forward John Henson, currently starting at power forward.
Point guard Brandon Knight, projected as the Bucks starter but injured just 2 minutes into the season opener Oct. 30, returned Saturday and played 15 minutes against Dallas.
“Yeah, his minutes are limited,” Drew said. “They will increase, though (Tuesday night).”
Rookie Nate Wolters has started the last three games at point guard for the Bucks.
Drew said he could not say anything definitive about Bucks forward Carlos Delfino, who posted an update on his website saying he would have additional surgery on his right foot and be out four to six months.
“I don’t know,” Drew said. “I heard about it this morning, that he made that statement, but I don’t think it’s been determined yet.”
Delfino, 31, missed all of training camp after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a fractured bone in his right foot. He said more surgery is required following a setback that occurred in August.
Delfino signed a two-year deal worth $6.5 million to return to the Bucks after spending one season with Houston.
Gary D’Amato of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.