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Larry Sanders swats his way into Milwaukee's heart

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm •  Published: January 23, 2013
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He averaged 12.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in the first five games, establishing himself as an important piece to a young roster.

"That was huge for me to have a good start, especially with the roster the set up," Sanders said. "I didn't want to get buried. I put in a lot of work and it was good to see it coming back."

Sanders is averaging 3.2 blocks per game, well ahead of Serge Ibaka (2.8) for the league lead. He had a triple-double — including 10 blocks — against the Timberwolves on Nov. 30, had 17 points and 20 rebounds against the Celtics on Dec. 21 and had an incredible stretch of 25 blocks in a five-game stretch earlier this month.

"He had to learn he couldn't reach as much, how to block a shot, when to follow through," Bucks assistant Joe Wolf said. "Those are things only experience can teach you."

With long arms, knobby elbows and an elongated gate, Sanders still looks at times like a young Buck trying to find his legs while he gallops through the paint in pursuit of the next block. But his defensive positioning, timing ability to avoid foul trouble all have improved dramatically, which has helped Milwaukee (22-18) weather coach Scott Skiles' departure and remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

"He always worked hard and you could tell he was going to be a good player," point guard Brandon Jennings said. "It's been fun to watch him take a big step this year and become a key part of our team and of our success."

In doing so, Sanders has endeared himself to a blue-collar town that embraces the underdog.

"It's a hard-working city, underdog in a sense," Sanders said. "Great place. Tough place. Tough people here. You have to be. I was walking out the door today and looked at my phone and it was minus-2 outside."

And Sanders has found a way to get his creativity off the court to translate to his game, viewing shot-blocking as an art form in its own right.

"I like to think of angles and meeting the opponent at the backboard," Sanders said. "It feels like an art, the way engineers connect the dots in a sense."

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Freelance writer Mark Kass in Milwaukee contributed to this story.

Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski