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Larry Sanders will reportedly 'look into' making NBA return

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Sanders turned his back on basketball to focus on his mental health and other interests a year ago. Could he be back in the NBA sooner rather than later?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Former Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders will look into returning to the NBA once he reaches "stability" with his passions away from the basketball court, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports.

"Once my art, music and passions off the court feel stable, I will look into coming back," Sanders told The Vertical. "I still love basketball. I want stability around me, and part of my mindset to leave was not to put all my eggs in one basket.

"I feel highly valuable on any team. There aren't a lot of people who can bring my game to a team. I still play basketball all the time, staying in shape. I will need to make sure the situation is right for me."

The 27-year-old Sanders reached a buyout agreement with the Bucks last February, opting to retire (for now) to deal with personal problems and focus on his work in music and art. Since then, he's done just that while living in Los Angeles.

Sanders' career began to unravel shortly after signing a four-year, $44 million extension in the summer of 2013. A bar fight in November 2013 saw him sidelined by a thumb injury, and a few months later he suffered a season-ending eye injury. He was subsequently suspended twice by the NBA for violating the league's marijuana policy, and by Christmas 2014 he had taken a leave of absence to focus on his battle with anxiety and depression.

By mid-February the Bucks and Sanders had reached an agreement to buy out Sanders' remaining three seasons for $13 million, which due to the league's stretch provision works out to roughly $1.87 million annually over seven years, through the 2021/2022 season. That's a rather modest figure given the $30-plus million owed to him a year ago, especially with the salary cap expected to surge past $100 million in the next two years.

Milwaukee theoretically could one day re-sign Sanders, but it's difficult to imagine the franchise investing more time and energy in a player whose struggles with mental illness and off-court interests repeatedly derailed an otherwise promising career in Milwaukee. While Sanders' defensive presence could certainly help a Bucks team that has struggled to replicate the success of a season ago, they moved on for good reasons and Sanders would have to prove to NBA teams that he's fully invested in a return to basketball.

Sanders played his entire career with the Bucks after being the No. 15 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. In five seasons with Milwaukee, Sanders' peak year was 2012-13 when he averaged a career-high 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 71 games. That season eventually led to his four-year, $44 million extension he signed the proceeding offseason, but his career went off the rails shortly thereafter.