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Phoenix Suns’ Alex Len staying positive despite frustrating start to career

PHOENIX — This is not how Alex Len anticipated spending his rookie season. Rather than practicing and playing, the Phoenix Suns big man is sitting and watching.

Len, the team’s first round pick — drafted fifth overall — missed his 11th straight game Friday because of continuing soreness in his left ankle.

The good news, however, is the ankle, which was surgically repaired in May to help heal a stress fracture, is improving.

“He’s had several days where the pain has not been there,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.

Several more days are necessary though before Len sees the court again.

“They say probably a couple of weeks,” he answered when asked when he might return to practice. “(I’m) slowly progressing. The last two days I started doing more stuff in the weight room with my legs, just more movement stuff. Slowly coming back.”

The Suns thought they had the 7-foot-1 Len back earlier in the season after he had been shut down after playing the first two games. He returned 18 days later, logging a combined 10 minutes in back-to-back games against Sacramento.

But the soreness resurfaced, resulting in this second shutdown, which is seeing Len, who has seven points and seven rebounds playing a total of 31 minutes over four games, spend much of his time in the weight room.

“The training staff has worked on certain issues and muscles that will help him from not getting sore,” Hornacek said. “Once those get strong enough then they feel they’ll give him the freedom to start practicing and then we’ll build from there.

“Alex has been very good about understanding that — he’s a young guy, it’s something that we can’t just throw him in there and have that issue lingering forever. If we can get rid of (the soreness), maybe it slows down his initial progress, but he understands that. He’s working hard in the weight room, getting his body stronger and working on his quickness. It’s not like he’s just sitting around, doing nothing.”

Len admits to being frustrated, “but just got to stay positive — do what I have control of,” which also includes going over game film with coaches.

“Trying to learn all the plays so when I come back I don’t want to be far behind,” he said.