Larry Sanders undergoes thumb surgery, out 6 weeks
Sanders missed practice on November 5 with a thumb injury, and then sat out the following day's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The injury was not believed to be serious, so most people brushed it off as a day-to-day type situation. The day after that missed game, however, details emerged from a report that Sanders was involved in a bar fight two days before that first missed practice. Though the team denies the notion, the timing off the fight and the injury has to leave you suspicious that Sanders hurt his thumb throwing a punch.
Getting in fights is never a good idea, especially for NBA players, but if Sanders' thumb injury is, in fact, related to the alleged off-court altercation, Sanders' ill-advised actions are costing him big time. It was reported on Monday that Sanders will undergo surgery on his injured thumb, and he is expected to miss six weeks of action.
As if Sanders wasn't struggling enough already this season, his thumb injury now has him on the shelf until Christmas. Despite Sanders' breakout campaign last year, new head coach Larry Drew has not shown much faith in his young center, playing him just 17.3 minutes per game (Sanders averaged 27.3 minutes last year). Sanders has been vocal in his disappointment, and it's clear that his discouragement is affecting his game.
Though the sample size is a mere three games, Sanders is shooting a pathetic 25% from the field, averaging 2.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.0 fouls. He's not just producing less because of reduced playing time, but has also seen a steep decrease in his per 36 minute averages. He'll look to get healthy and pull himself together for the middle stretch of the season, and based on his strong play from a year ago, it's certainly reasonable to think that he can get his season turned around.
The main beneficiaries, as far as minutes, from Sanders' absence will be big men Zaza Pachulia and John Henson. Pachulia is getting 31.4 minutes per game, which has led to some of the best numbers of his career. Henson - the 14th pick in the 2012 draft - has more upside, but is not quite as reliable despite looking much improved after a mediocre rookie campaign. It will be interesting to see what kind of playing time Sanders gets when he returns to action, particularly if Pachulia and Henson play well in his absence.