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Cavaliers 128, Pistons 96: Marla's 26 shots from Beyond the Arc on Larry Sanders' touching welcome

By Marla Ridenour Published: March 14, 2017

Notes, quotes and observations after the Cavaliers' 128-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

1. There is something special about the brotherhood in the Cavaliers' locker room. There is something special about the thoughtfulness of coach Tyronn Lue. And it all came together in the final two minutes and after the game to give Larry Sanders a welcome back to the NBA he'll never forget.

2. Out of the league for the past two years, the 15th overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2010 was treated for anxiety and depression after he was released on Feb. 21, 2015. He had marijuana problems in his past and was arrested last year.

3. Sanders was signed on Monday and is destined to spend much of the next two weeks piling up minutes in the D-League to get back into game shape.

3. He wasn't supposed to play against the Pistons. But after the Cavs built a 74-48 halftime lead and pushed it to 104-70 after three quarters, Lue sat his starters for all of the fourth.

4. That's when Lue decided he wanted to put Sanders in. But he said he had to get permission from general manager David Griffin. So Lue sent a ball boy to talk to Griffin at his seat in the risers behind the basket by the Cavs' bench.

5. Griffin's response, "'Two minutes,'" Lue said.

6. Lue got the opening he needed after a DeAndre Liggins foul. Sanders entered the game with 1:58 remaining to a big ovation, although some had departed because of the snowstorm.

7. "I really just wanted to introduce him to the crowd and have him get in, give him a chance to have a standing ovation. I thought it was good for him," Lue said. "When you go through what he’s went through, and you have a chance to get back in the NBA on a pretty good team, I thought it was cool."

8. But that wasn't the end of it. In the post-game locker room, Lue said LeBron James and others spoke about Sanders' return to the league and his second chance.

9. "To go what he’s going through and to be a part of this team, it’s great. We’re happy for him," Lue said. "I think he liked the ovation he got, so that’s good."

10. Sanders said Lue didn't call out his name to send him into the game.

11. "He kind of gave me a look and I just started stretching," Sanders said. "Hopefully I get used to that look."

12. Sanders said he didn't expect the Cavs to have a 30-point lead (it was actually 36) so he would have a chance to get in, but he was happy he did.

13. "Got a chance to touch the floor, the crowd showed great support. It was great to get out there," Sanders said.

14. As for the gesture Lue made in orchestrating it, Sanders said, "It’s awesome. It’s been nothing but support. I’m thankful."

15. Sanders said all that was on his mind was to block a shot, which might explain his two personal fouls.

16. Judging from Sanders' comments, it was hard to tell which meant more, getting to play or what was said in the locker room afterward.

17. "It meant a lot," Sanders said. "LeBron reiterated again that they’re behind me, they’re supportive. He thanked me for my decision. It was all love. It was a great moment."

18. Kyrie Irving called the postgame scene "awesome" and spoke of the Cavs' culture, family atmosphere and brotherhood.

19. "'Bron brought it in and made sure we took a second to realize how unique and impactful his journey is on all of us and him coming into the locker room and being part of a great team like this," Irving said. "We don’t take it for granted, we understood the moment and it’s great for him, for him to be welcomed the way he is."

20. James guessed those two minutes meant a lot to Sanders.

21. "For us as his brothers now, it was great to just see him back out there," James said. "To have a two-year hiatus like he had and doing the things he needed to do to shore himself up to be a part of this league again, he was back where he belonged tonight and we’re happy he’s in a Cavaliers uniform."

22. As for his message in the locker room, James said, "We’re here to protect him, we’re here to be part of his comeback, to be a part of something he’s been wanting to do for quite a while now. We’re happy he chose us and it’s up to us to make sure this is everything he wanted and more."

23. In the past week, much has been made of the arrival of Sanders, the Cavs' 15th man. Sanders may contribute little this season, with Griffin saying he was signed with an eye on the future, the reason for the team option for 2017-18.

24. But the night was more about the Cavs' chemistry and the way they feel about each other. James showed the same consideration for 15th man Joe Harris during the 2014-15 season when James went out of his way to introduce himself to Harris's girlfriend. Already this season they've embraced Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Derrick Williams. On Tuesday night when Iman Shumpert discovered his socks were missing, LeBron James tossed him several colorful designer pairs from which to choose and asked that Shumpert return the ones he didn't wear. Shumpert wailed like he was diving into his Christmas stocking.

25. The Cavs are well aware that Sanders still faces a tough road in his comeback, both mentally and physically. It may not have a happy ending, but they want to do everything in their power to help.

26. "We understand this is something special being part of this NBA fraternity and we're excited to have this opportunity to embrace him and be that group that helps him re-assimilate into the NBA," James Jones said before the game. "It's a tough thing to do, to get back into this league. We're excited about him being a part of this for the long term. A lot of times the comeback stories are harder than our initial journeys to the league."

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