Do NBA scorekeepers log it as a block if you reject your own progress? Or if you block the progress of your team in the playoff race? Or if you swat yourself off the active roster for a game due to a mandated league suspension? Because it sure feels like Larry Sanders thinks there is a point to his increasingly unprofessional behavior towards referees.
Sanders has unquestionably done some damage to his reputation after racking up six technical fouls, three ejections and $95,000 in fines over a 10-day span. He was tossed out in a contest against the Wizards on Match 13, jettisoned from the Heat game on March 15 and fined for his comments about the refs and then sent to the locker room again when the Bucks fell apart against the Pacers on March 22. Now when people think about Larry Sanders, they may not just think about blocks and interior defense. That's a damn shame. We address these issues in our companion podcast:
Jim Boylan had some trouble keeping a young, hot-headed big man in check as the interim coach for the Bulls -- I noted his trouble with Joakim Noah when he got the job to replace Skiles -- but this is pretty much on Larry at this point. Boylan certainly didn't mince words when asked about Larry after the loss to the Heat (via JS-Online):
Boylan said there would be a serious discussion with Sanders about his on-court behavior.
"You're a professional athlete, and you have to behave like a professional," Boylan said. "The referees don't come in here with an agenda, for the most part. They come in here and ref the game.
"I know all those guys. It doesn't mean you can't have an argument or a disagreement with one of them. That happens in the heat of the game. We'll talk with Larry. Like I've said to Larry before, I don't mind him playing with emotion as long as it doesn't hurt the team.
"Getting ejected from two games in a row, it's not good for our team and it's not good for Larry."
He followed up with similar thoughts after Larry's third ejection, against the Pacers, telling reporters: "You start playing with fire, you're going to get burned, and that's what's happening right now."
Sanders is definitely playing with fire, too. Here are the ways he could possibly get burned:
(1) The NBA is a cut throat league filled with players and coaches looking to find an edge. The defensive stats make it clear that a vast majority of the league cannot find an edge against Sanders in the paint. He is a physical freak who has dominated opposing offensive players between the lines. Opponents already work to get an edge by loading Larry up with fouls to get him off the court, but now they may also try to get in his head. If he gets mad about a non-call on the offensive end, expect the opponent to dump it down in the post, bull rush him and try hard to get him to pick up a technical or get ejected. Call it the DeMarcus Cousins Plan of Attack.
(2) He will take the attention away from his amazing defensive season and get people talking about the negative aspects of his game. His recent drop in offense and his penchant for awful jump shots have both flown under the radar thanks to his excellent defense, but if he turns the conversation to focus on flaws, there are things to say. For all the great things a player can do, a bad reputation is a tough thing to shake. Ask DeMarcus Cousins. It's not at DMC levels by any means, but Larry has at least driven to the parking lot of that ballpark, and that's enough of a reason to be concerned.
(3) He is drawing closer to a one-game suspension from the league. The NBA hands out a one-game suspension when a player reaches 16 technical fouls in a season, and an additional game for each two techs after that point. Sanders now has 13, and only Kobe Bryant has more. He also leads the league in ejections. Aside from the money it has cost him, I just don't feel good about Sanders sneaking on to the informal watch list for referees. Make no mistake, the Bucks will be at a serious tactical disadvantage if he is not available due to suspension. But it's not up to us, it's all on Larry Sanders. Let's hope he comes to his senses soon.
Technical Foul Leaders, 2012-13 NBA Season To-Date
Ejections Leaders, 2012-13 NBA Season To-Date
Fouls / 48 Min Leaders, 2012-13 NBA Season To-Date