With a little over two minutes to play in the first quarter of the Canton Charge’s game against the Windy City Bulls, Larry Sanders took off his blue warmup jacket and walked from Canton’s bench to the scorers table.
On assignment from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sanders was set to play in a live professional basketball game for the first time for in two-plus years on Saturday. (His debut in garbage time with the Cavs notwithstanding.)
Sanders, though, had to wait just a bit longer when Charge center Eric Moreland missed a free throw and the game moved on. Charge coach Nate Reinking pulled him back to the bench before he officially checked in at the start of the second quarter.
“Coach tried to get me in, but there were time timeouts,” Sanders said. “It just works like that sometimes.”
In 11 minutes, Sanders finished with 2 points, 1 rebound, 3 blocks and 5 fouls. Both of his points came from the free throw line, where he went 2-4. He played all of his minutes separate from Moreland, the Charge’s starting center.
“It’s a process. Invest in it, trust it,” Sanders said of what he hopes to accomplish with the Charge. “I’ve been on every side of the spectrum. From playing in the D-League to fouling out of games in the summer to averaging a double-double. It’s a process and I’m ready.”
Offensively, the Charge fed him the ball in specific spots. The plays run for Sanders were almost exclusively post-ups and and pick and rolls. Mostly, he set screens and looked to find space near the rim within the Charge’s existing structure.
On defense, Sanders played the type of role he might were he to get minutes with the Cavs. On Windy City pick and rolls, he almost exclusively dropped back near the rim. His timing did seem a bit off, as his four of his five fouls came in situations where he simply made contact with the opponent while going for a block. The other came when he was going for an offensive rebound.
“[My] defensive timing [is] off a little bit,” Sanders said. “Just trying to get position. But it’ll come, it’ll come.”
The positive, though, is that he appeared to make his presence felt and he was active during his time on the floor. Notably, Sanders often forced the Bulls to adjust to his presence in the paint and not vice-versa.
Not all of his fouls were a sign of rust either, as one came after he forced two Bulls to miss consecutive shots. He committed the foul when neither he or his teammates could collect the rebound.
“I thought he was good,” Reinking, the Charge’s coach, said. “There’s a presence to him. He handled the paint well. He hasn’t played in a while and you can tell a little bit with his timing. But other than that, I thought he was great.”
It is not yet known if Sanders will continue to play with the Charge - Reinking called the Cavs’ plans “classified” - but tonight’s result was a step in the right direction.
“[I’m here] to get my legs under me, hopefully help this team win some games,” he said. “Get back in shape. Get basketball ready.”
The Charge ultimately beat the Bulls 104-101. Cameron Jones lead them with 20 points. Moreland added 8 points, 20 rebounds and 7 blocks.
Minutes prior to the game, it was reported that guard Quinn Cook had been signed to a 10-day deal by the New Orleans Pelicans. Jordon Crawford started in his place and finished with 17 points and 6 assists. Cook was warming up with the team before apparently getting the call-up to the NBA at the last minute.
“It’s normal,” Reinking said. “It’s the D-League.”