The Bucks announced Friday that center Larry Sanders will be sidelined for at least six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair fractures in his right orbital bone sustained during a Feb. 8 loss to the Rockets.
Sanders had missed Milwaukee's final two games before the All-Star break with the injury and had been listed as out indefinitely with the injury, which occurred when he took an elbow to the face from Rockets guard James Harden.
A six-week recovery time places Sanders' expected return date in late March, just a few weeks before the end of the 2013-14 regular season. If Sanders returns in exactly six weeks, he will miss Milwaukee's next 20 games.
"That's really unfortunate because the kid has been playing well," Bucks coach Larry Drew said earlier this week, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin. "He was starting to play with a rhythm and played two of his better games this year. It's just real unfortunate that he sustained the injury."
The injury occurred with a little less than eight minutes remaining in the first quarter of Houston's 101-95 victory last Saturday. Sanders took a left elbow to the face from Harden as the two players battled for a rebound. The fourth-year center crumbled straight to the court and was subbed out at the next dead ball. He did not return, finishing with two points (on 1-for-3 shooting) and four rebounds in four minutes.
"Sorry I couldn't come back out last night Bucks fans," Sanders wrote on Instagram, alongside the following picture which shows his badly bruised face. "I really appreciate everyone's support at the game. Hope to be back soon!"
Larry Sanders took an elbow to the face. (Larry Sanders on Instagram)
Sanders, 25, is averaging 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23 appearances this season. He missed nearly all of November and December after tearing a ligament in his thumb during a late-night fight at a nightclub. That injury that required surgery.
The bad news just keeps coming for Sanders, who inked a four-year, $44 million rookie contract extension in August. In October, Sanders’ former agent sued his current representation for alleged client poaching prior to Sanders’ new deal. In November, Sanders and new Bucks coach Larry Drew reportedly didn’t see eye-to-eye about Sanders’ role.
Shortly after word of his beef with Drew broke, Sanders was involved in a late-night nightclub incident which left him with a torn ligament in his thumb. Sanders was later cited by police for his role in the incident, which allegedly involved throwing champagne bottles, and previous animal cruelty charges against Sanders also came to light.
Upon his return to the basketball court, Sanders was involved in a verbal altercation with teammate Gary Neal following an early-January loss. Then, just a few days later, he was ejected for throwing a flagrant elbow at Thunder center Steven Adams.
Milwaukee entered the All-Star break with a league-worst 9-43 record. Sanders' defensive rating of 104.7 is among the Bucks' best, but he hasn't yet reclaimed his form from last season, when he ranked second in the league in blocks per game and placed seventh in the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Drew started a frontcourt of Zaza Pachulia, John Henson and Khris Middleton this week and can turn to 26-year-old rookie center Miroslav Raduljica for minutes off the bench in Sanders' absence.
Video via YouTube user NBAGameTime1 | Photo via Larry Sanders on Instagram