"We are disappointed to learn the news of Larry's suspension. We will continue to work with Larry and the league to ensure he has the support he needs."
That was the extent of the Bucks' press release on Friday night, the abruptness of which seemed to summarize the general level of exasperation around Bucks nation on Friday. Here we go again.
Some quick notes on Sanders' last run-in with the NBA's drug policy:
- Starting with Monday's matchup with the Raptors, Sanders won't be eligible to return until the Bucks' February 7th game against the Celtics. Whether he actually plays is an entirely different question.
- Players lose 1/110 of their annual salary for each game they're suspended, which over 10 games amounts to 1/11 of Sanders' $11 million annual salary. So the math works out to an even $1 million in salary he's losing over the next three weeks.
- So when might Sanders have first been made aware of his failed drug test? Well, consider that the NBA's drug policy requires players appeal positive drug tests within five days of notification. If they do, a "B" sample is analyzed by a separate testing lab with results returned with 10 days. So if Sanders' suspension was handed down on January 16, then he presumably would have been first alerted to a failed test no earlier than New Year's Day. That doesn't tell us when he actually failed the drug test, though it would seem to disprove an earlier theory that his absence was triggered by the test results themselves.
- At this point the Bucks can't terminate Sanders' contract based solely on his drug problems -- that's what the league's drug policy (and related suspensions) are for. If the Bucks decided their only option was waiving Sanders, then the final three years and $33 million on his current deal could be "stretched" over seven years (two times three years plus one) at a pro rated $4.71 million per season. The Bucks could then elect to have the same amount reflected in their cap number, or they could use Sanders' original $11 million cap number over the next three years. The upside in the stretch scenario is that it slices a little over $6 million off the Bucks' salary cap number over each of the next three years. The downside? It would also mean keeping a nearly $5 million cap hit on the book for an additional four years.
- Sanders and the Bucks could also agree on some other buyout amount, though it doesn't seem like Sanders' agent Happy Walters would have an incentive to give up much. Sanders' value as a free agent would be rather low under current circumstances, so free agency would only be appealing in that it could offer a fresh start somewhere. That's why I'd still assume that the Bucks sit tight for the short term, allowing Sanders to serve his suspension in the hopes that by February some better options might be available.