Bucks' Gary Neal, Larry Sanders engage in locker room argument after loss to Suns
In a rare public expression of teammate-on-teammate frustration, Neal took a dig at Sanders' work ethic and salary, according to the Arizona Republic.
Gary Neal and Larry Sanders got into a shouting match with media present. At one point, Neal yelled, “I earn my money. Why don’t you try it?”
The Journal-Sentinel also reported the exchange, noting that Sanders "questioned Neal's attitude" and that guard O. J. Mayo tried to downplay the exchange.
Neal was yelling loudly as he exited the locker room and Sanders would not comment on the argument as he exited. Earlier Bucks strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett stepped between the two players to try to keep the situation from escalating.
Bucks guard O.J. Mayo later said, "A little team bonding, man, that's all. A little kumbaya, man. It's all good."
Milwaukee committed a season-high 26 turnovers, losing for the fifth time in their last six games, and neither player enjoyed much individual success. Neal finished with nine points (on 3-for-8 shooting), one rebound and one assist in 18 minutes off the bench. Sanders tallied seven points (on 3-for-5 shooting), two rebounds and one block, while registering a team-worst minus-26 in 26 minutes.
Neal, 29, signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract with the Bucks in July after spending the three previous seasons with the Spurs. The journeyman guard, who went undrafted out of Towson and played in Turkey, Spain and Italy before sticking in San Antonio, is averaging 10.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game this season.
Sanders, 25, inked a four-year, $44 million rookie contract extension in August, and hasn't been able to escape the negative headlines since. 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 that news 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.
The thumb injury required surgery, costing Sanders 25 games, and he returned to the court on Dec. 27. The fourth-year center is averaging 7.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, and Milwaukee is 1-4 since his return.
After signing his new contract, Sanders acknowledged that he was being entrusted with a leadership role on a rebuilt Bucks team, and he said that he looked forward to “represent[ing] Milwaukee” for the duration of his new deal.
“Can’t believe I’ve been granted this opportunity to represent Milwaukee for the next five years and hopefully the rest of my career,” Sanders wrote on Instagram. “Words can not explain my gratitude for the Bucks organization and the faith in me as a leader and a worker. I won’t let you down Mil-town.”
Back in early December, Sanders was named to The Point Forward's Eastern Conference All-Letdown Team. Milwaukee's 7-26 record marks the worst in the NBA.