Larry Sanders debuted with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants this evening and scored 15 points along with 14 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks -- though he also made just 5-13 from the field and totaled 5 turnovers. Sanders started at center in the overtime win and played 34 minutes -- more than he played in any game with the Bucks this season. And according to Coach Skiles prior to Tuesday's home win over Minnesota, the idea behind sending Sanders to the D-League is just that -- to give him minutes:
Skiles: It was sort of quirk in their schedule, where they had four games quickly. So we could get him down there, get him to play four straight games, which is good for him to get minutes. I would also argue it doesn't hurt any rookie to go down there a little bit.
That helps explain some of the seemingly curious timing of sending Sanders down. Sort of. Yes, the Mad Ants play the Springfield Armor (at 10-24, the second worst team in the NBDL) again on Thursday before spending the weekend in North Dakota playing the Dakota Wizards on both Saturday and Sunday. In the same span (from Tuesday to Sunday), the Bucks will have played three games -- their win against Minnesota, the loss in New York tonight and a Saturday home
loss game against the Bulls. Meanwhile, the Bucks don't even have 12 other available players, so Sanders was again listed as active tonight.
Granted, the first round rookie has played just 36 NBA minutes since Jan. 29, including seven DNP-CDs during that time. Though to be fair, when he played a season-high 33 minutes, Sanders scored 14 points, hauled in 10 rebounds, and blocked 8 shots against the Nuggets. In that game, Sanders ferociously blocked Carmelo Anthony on consecutive possessions, drawing consecutive technicals as the then-Nugget star was bewildered and incensed and kicked out. Earlier this week, Sanders scored six points in six minutes against the Nuggets.
Tonight, the Bucks faced Anthony and Billups again, but Sanders was playing in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum instead of Madison Square Garden.So was Sanders not making progress in the NBA?
Skiles: No, no, he's making progress. All young people -- there are older people too -- but young people come up here and you stay at the Four Seasons, you travel all around, you are getting guaranteed money, you are playing some, you are not playing some. It doesn't hurt to go down and stay in some different hotels and get a little bit different perspective.
Indeed, Fort Wayne and Grand Rapids, where Sanders will spend the week playing, are not quite NYC. Will Sanders at least come back after the four games for Fort Wayne, and will his call back up to the Bucks be contingent on how he plays as a Mad Ant?
Skiles: Maybe not after those four. But at some point, obviously, he will.
No, it's strictly on when we want to bring him back. We don't expect him to go down there and play bad or anything. He will probably play well. He's got enough of a skill set to do that. We will monitor him. And we will see how it goes.