By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Feb 16, 2015 at 1:21 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Sitting on a chair in the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin Training Center (the former Cousins Center), on a raised platform with a mic in his hand, Jason Kidd was peppered with questions about Larry Sanders.

It was late September, at the official Milwaukee Bucks media day, and Kidd was asked, for the first time, about his erstwhile franchise center. Much of the conversation revolved around redemption, the nature of sports allowing for second and third chances, and that he expected Sanders to anchor his defensive scheme.

Kidd also said Sanders was the model player, doing all that was asked of him by Kidd and his coaches.

But lost in it all was a small joke -- and one that now proves prescient.

Kidd had just hired Greg Foster as a full fledged assistant, and the former Bucks center had developed a reputation as an excellent developer of big men. So, Kidd was asked if he felt Foster could help Sanders take the next step in his career.

"A lot of times, you get traded," Kidd began." I’m being funny, but when you don’t execute what the coaches are looking for to help a teammate you’ll find yourselves being moved around. I think Greg and Larry have this great rapport early on, which is great. But being able to talk to Larry this whole summer, he’s doing everything we’ve asked."

It was an oddly placed bit of humor, and roundly ignored locally after the day had concluded, but now, less than five months later, a report from says Sanders is likely moving on, as he and the team are working towards a buyout before the second half of the season begins Friday night.

A message to Sanders' agent, Happy Walters, has not been immediately returned.

Sanders has not been with the team since Dec. 23 for illness, personal reasons, and an NBA suspension and where it exactly went wrong for Sanders, or between the center and the organization, is unclear.

What was clear however, even with that quip at the start of the year, is that Kidd had set certain, in-house expectations for his roster.

Following the Bucks' 30th win of the year last Wednesday, which doubled last season's win total, Kidd said the organization's plans for Sanders "will be determined during the break. We’ll get together and talk and get him back in the fold with the family, if that’s what’s needed. And then we’ll go from there."

The coach also allowed that there may have been an expectation that he return.

"There could be," Kidd said. "He could be with the team after the break and then, as any injury, we’ll work him back into the fold and get him hopefully back in shape and then see where that leads us."

Sanders left the team following a loss to Charlotte on Dec. 23, after which there was a players-only meeting that lasted nearly an hour. To that point in the year, Sanders had struggled with foul trouble (averaging 3.9 per game) and was averaging 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game.

Earlier that day, Sanders had met with about building family traditions in the city and offered no hint of discontent with basketball, or the organization.

While the Bucks alternated calling Sanders' absence injury related and then a personal decision, the 26-year-old re-joined team at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Jan. 6. Afterwards, he met the media in the locker room and said reports about losing his desire to play basketball were untrue.

But, in those last public comments, Sanders acknowledged he had things to work through and that "without these things being corrected, I don't think basketball will be something I can even do," he said. "I'm going to work my way back to try to be able to play."

Later that night, Sanders told that he wanted to keep the nature of those "things" private.

Ten days later, the NBA announced it had suspended Sanders for 10 games for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

His suspension ended before the All-Star break, and Sanders tweeted this ...

But he did not rejoin team as it played the Sacaremento Kings on Feb. 11, instead being listed as out for "personal reasons."

Sanders is in the first year of a reported four-year, $44 million extension he signed in the summer of 2013.

The Bucks have plenty of financial flexibility this season, and there is some wiggle room with what is called the "stretch provision," which the Detroit Pistons used on forward Josh Smith earlier this year. 

When Smith was waived in December, the Detroit Free Press reported teams "can stretch out the buyout terms through doubling the remaining years on the contract plus adding one year." 

In that case, Sanders could be drawing checks from the Bucks through the next decade.

Should Sanders clear waivers, he would be free to sign with any team, should he want to continue his basketball career.

The current contract extension Sanders is playing under was awarded off a breakout 2012-13 campaign in which he averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.

During that year he became a folk hero of sorts, with his energetic dunks and defense, along with record-setting performances such as his 10-block effort against Minnesota. The team rolled out a Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player campaign and he was dubbed LARRY SANDERS! across many internet platforms for his highlight-reel play.

Sanders was also invited to train with USA Basketball that summer. 

Things began to unravel shortly thereafter, however under first-year coach Larry Drew in 2013, first with diminished minutes in the first two games of the season and then an off-court incident following the team's home opener that led to an injury.

He apologized for the fight at Apartment 720 that lead to a broken thumb, saying "I'm going to be better. I'm going to get better at this on and off the court.

"I'm going to come back better."

Sanders played 20 games for the Bucks after returning and seemed to be rounding into form by averaging 13.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over a four-game stretch from Jan. 29 through Feb. 5 before he had his eye socket broken by an errant elbow on Feb. 8 against Houston.

His 2013-14 season then ended in his first suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. 

With the trade for Kidd last summer, Sanders said he had re-dedicated himself to the game and the Bucks and hated being off the court.

"It was tough just sitting there, not playing, when my team was struggling," Sanders said back in October. "If we're going to struggle we gotta struggle together, and I need to feel like I'm a part of that struggle. And just looking forward to struggling, overcoming that adversity that comes with a new team and being a part of that."

Before leaving for the All-Star break, players said they were returning to practice on Wednesday. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 2 p.m. and the Bucks host the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.