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Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek: ‘Hopefully by Wednesday’ rookie Alex Len has a chance to play

PHOENIX — Sitting, waiting, wishing.

That’s been the primary course action for the better part of Phoenix Suns center Alex Len’s rookie season.

The Suns have certainly been ignited by their youth and athleticism early on this season, but their 5-3 mark has had little to do with the 2013 first-round pick.

Of Phoenix’s first eight games, the former Maryland standout has found his way onto the court twice. After scoring five combined points in 21 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz, Len was forced back to the sidelines with yet another setback to his already-suspect left ankle.

In May, Len went under the knife to repair a stress fracture in that ankle — one which he played on for the better part of his junior season with the Terrapins. The procedure rendered him useless when it came time for pre-draft workouts, as he limped around from city to city with a bulky walking boot.

Nevertheless, the Suns and general manager Ryan McDonough took a chance on the 7-foot-1 center with their No. 5 selection, believing his injury was nothing more than a temporary situation.

“Our medical people took a close look at it,” McDonough said of Len’s ankle injury on draft night. “We are confident he won’t have issues going forward.”

That statement rang partially hollow, as Len opted to have “precautionary” surgery on his right ankle just three weeks later.

Len, however, did make it back in time for training camp, played in five of the team’s eight preseason games and made brief appearances in the first two regular season contests.

So end of story, right?


Following Phoenix’s 87-84 victory over Utah on Nov. 1, Len complained of soreness in his surgically-repaired left ankle and subsequently has been reduced to street clothes the past six contests.

But according to Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek, the rookie might soon be donning the purple and orange again instead of what’s become his customary dress shirt and blazer.

“He’s getting better, and [the training staff] has done a lot of things with him lately to rule out certain things,” Hornacek said before Friday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. “At this point, I guess the best way to say it is Aaron [Nelson] and those guys know it better. The best way to say it is he has a tendonitis that’s not going away.

“They are doing some to strengthen parts around that to take some pressure off that area that’s getting tendonitis. I don’t think he’s too far away. He did some stuff today, this morning. He was doing some things before the game tonight. Hopefully by Wednesday he might have a chance to play.”

With the emergence of front court players like Markieff Morris and Miles Plumlee, Hornacek reiterated — much the same way McDonough did in late October on Arizona Sports 620’s Burns & Gambo — that the organization has no interest in jeopardizing Len’s long-term future by rushing him back before his left ankle is 100 percent healthy.

“I think he’s OK,” said Hornacek of the rookie center’s psyche. “He had the injury last season. He wishes he could get back on the court. Just like we tell a lot of the young guys, ‘You’re going to have a long career. So, there’s no sense in pushing it and rushing it out there now.'”