On starting center Tristan Thompson’s 26th birthday, the Cavaliers got him some help.
Fresh off being outrebounded 20-4 on the offensive glass in a loss in Houston on Sunday night, the Cavs on Monday signed 6-foot-11, 230-pound center Larry Sanders, who last played in an NBA game on Dec. 23, 2014.
Cleveland thought it had filled its need for a true center when it signed 7-footer Andrew Bogut, but the 32-year-old broke his left leg 58 seconds into his Cavs debut on March 6, is done for the season and was waived to sign the 28-year-old Sanders.
Sanders has twice been suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and walked away from the game after being bought out of a four-year, $44 million contract by the Bucks in February 2015.
“It looks like he wants another opportunity and hopefully if we’re the team, hopefully we give him an opportunity,” forward LeBron James said recently. “Why not? Everyone deserves a second chance, and it looks like he wants to get back to playing the game he loves.”
It is believed that Sanders’ contract with the Cavs includes a team option for next season.
Not in great basketball shape and reportedly having lost some of his muscle mass — Sanders’ listed playing weight is 5 pounds lighter than when he last saw action — he is expected to initially play for the Cavs’ NBA Development League affiliate in Canton. The goal is to get Sanders, who will wear No. 9 in Cleveland, ready to contribute in the NBA playoffs, which begin April 15.
The Charge has seven games left in a regular season that ends April 1, but Sanders will also be eligible to play for the team in the playoffs. He won’t play tonight in Canton.
Once he gets his feet wet, it’s likely Sanders will spend time practicing with the Cavs at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence while seeing game action with the Charge.
Sanders’ contract is for a prorated version of the $1.1 million league minimum for players with his experience, meaning he’ll make slightly more than $200,000 this season. Well over the salary cap, the Cavs will also have to pay a little more than $500,000 in luxury taxes.
Sanders’ deal for next season will reportedly become guaranteed if he is still on the roster at an unknown date this summer.
Selected by Milwaukee out of Virginia Commonwealth with the 15th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Sanders owns career averages of 6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. His best season was 2012-13, when he put up 9.8, 9.5 and 2.8 in those categories.
Long and athletic, an in-shape and motivated Sanders could provide the Cavs with the shot-blocking presence they’ve lacked and shore up their rebounding, which has suffered greatly with power forward Kevin Love out with a knee injury.
The Cavs (43-22), who are 2-5 in March, host the Detroit Pistons (33-33) tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Utah visits Thursday, then Cleveland will play six of its last eight games in March on the road.
After their loss Sunday, the Cavs’ lead atop the Eastern Conference had shrunk to two games over Washington and Boston.
“Every week is important,” a surly James said after committing eight turnovers against the Rockets. “It’s not one week that is more important than another. You try to build and build and create habits going into the postseason.
“We knew March was going to be a tough month when we looked at it going into the season,” he added. “At the end of the day, we’ll figure it out.”
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