Larry Sanders eager for more with Bucks

It’s been a busy summer for Milwaukee Bucks general manager John

Hammond.

After hiring a new coach, Hammond set his sights on the NBA

draft, then got to work rebuilding the roster, eventually bringing

11 new players to Milwaukee.

Last week, however, Hammond made sure one of those players still

around after last season stays in Milwaukee for a while. He signed

center Larry Sanders to a four-year extension worth approximately

$44 million.

”We’ve talked about moving forward as an organization and

building around young players on our roster,” Hammond said. ”He’s

one, if not the, key, core piece for us moving forward. This is a

great step for us for who we want to become.”

The extension comes after a breakout year for 24-year-old

Sanders, who led Milwaukee in rebounds (9.5 per game) and averaged

9.8 points, both career highs. His 2.83 blocks per game were second

in the NBA to Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka.

”He’s one of the top defenders in the NBA,” Hammond said.

”He’s one of the top shot-blockers in our business and he’s only

going to get better defensively, get better on offense and we’re

really excited to have him be a part of our organization

long-term.”

Offensively, Sanders is still a work-in-progress, but has shown

marked improvement over his first three seasons and shot a

career-best 50.6 percent from the field. Free throw shooting is

something of a concern — he’s 58 percent from the line in his

career but — but he connected at a 61.8 percent clip a year ago

while averaging 8.5 attempts.

Milwaukee selected Sanders with the 15th overall pick in the

2010 draft. He was set to enter the final year of his four-year

rookie-scale contract, which will pay him $3 million this season.

Getting better on offense is a key goal for Sanders and new coach

Larry Drew.

”Not just going to the basket but trying to facilitate more,

open the court and understand the offense more,” Sanders said.

”There’s a lot on the offensive end I’m working on.”

Sanders’ emotional play has made him a crowd-favorite at the

Bradley Center, but has also made him a target for officials, who

ejected him a league-leading five times last season, including

three in a span of 10 days. He finished fifth in the league with

3.3 fouls per game and was third with 14 technicals.

”My focus needs to be on winning the game,” Sanders said. ”I

know coach hates when we talk to the officials … so I’ll just

watch him.”

Not long after taking the job, Drew sat down with Sanders and

made it clear that things had to change.

”We went to dinner and talked,” Drew said. ”It was a very

frank and candid conversation; he realized he had to get better and

it’s something I’m going to expect of him.”