11:01 PM ET
- Dave McMenaminESPN Staff Writer Close
- Cavs and NBA writer for ESPN.com
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14 and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09
- Syracuse University graduate
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Cleveland Cavaliers did not waste time wallowing in their misfortune after Andrew Bogut suffered a season-ending leg injury in his first minute of action with the team. The franchise’s focus has turned back to free-agent big man Larry Sanders as a potential salve for their shoddy defense, and he could be signed as soon as this Monday, when the Cavs return home from their current three-game road trip, multiple sources told ESPN.
Sanders, a spindly 6-foot-11, 235-pound shot-blocker who hasn’t played in the NBA since December 2014, when he walked away from $27 million in guaranteed money from his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, first worked out for the Cavs on Feb. 22.
The workout included an extensive interview process, and coach Tyronn Lue came away endorsing the 28-year-old, who averaged 1.8 blocks in his four and a half seasons with the Bucks.
Signing Sanders after the team waives Bogut is not a foregone conclusion, however. A team source told ESPN that there is another player competing with Sanders for the one open spot the Cavs will have on the roster.
If that spot goes to Sanders, one important member of the Cavaliers sounds OK with it: LeBron James.
“It looks like he wants another opportunity, and hopefully, if we’re the team, hopefully we give him an opportunity,” James said before the Cavs held shootaround Saturday morning to prepare for their game against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night. “Why not? Everyone deserves a second chance, and it looks like he wants to get back to playing the game he loves, and hopefully this is his destination. You don’t know how much you can get out of a guy that’s been out so long, but I’d love to see it. Why not?”
For a better idea of what Sanders was going through in terms of the anxiety and depression that led him to leave the NBA, read this 2015 profile by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz.
James does not know how the past two years have changed Sanders, but he seemed open to finding out.
“I could talk about when he played,” James said. “An athletic big guy, incredible shot-blocking skills, anticipation around the rim, can finish around the rim and block shots, and being able to guard perimeter guys as well. With his hiatus, I don’t know what he was going through, so I can’t comment about somebody’s personal life because I wasn’t a part of it.”
James was a big part of J.R. Smith redefining his career after being traded from the New York Knicks to the Cavs and earning a lucrative contract extension because of it. He was a part of Chris “Birdman” Andersen becoming a champion with the Miami Heat after going through an internet hoax that threatened to strip him of his good name. He was also a part of former top-tier prospects Greg Oden and Eddy Curry getting a second chance in Miami.
James would welcome a similar turnaround for Sanders.
“I haven’t been around Larry, so I don’t know what consists of him playing every night or him getting back to the flow of things,” James said. “From the outside looking in, it looks like he wants to be back on an NBA floor again. He has the talent — we all know that. He has the ability. I think this will be a perfect locker room for him to try to help him. You know me: I’m always in favor of helping somebody get their things back right. I was part of it with Bird in Miami, helped Greg as much. I was part of it with Eddy Curry — he won a ring.
“I don’t ever shy away from a guy getting a second chance, and if this is his destination, I’d be happy to be part of his process.”