It was only six minutes of action, but it was an important step in Alex Len’s return to health in the NBA.
The 7-foot-1 rookie played in his first game Tuesday for the Phoenix Suns since Nov. 20. He had missed 21 straight games, and even though he was the No. 5 pick in the 2013 draft, nary a Suns fan probably noticed his absence, as second-year center Miles Plumlee has had a breakout season in his first go-round with the team.
Len suited up Saturday at home versus Milwaukee but did not play, but with 4:20 left in the first quarter Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls, the 20-year-old Ukrainian got his name called to spell Plumlee. He made his first shot in nearly two months just over a minute later.
The former Maryland standout sunk his only shot of the game and finished with three points and two rebounds in those six minutes, which was longer than he played in his previous two outings. He has only seen the court five times all season.
The team has been in no hurry to rush him back to the court as he recovers from a surgically repaired left ankle. The Suns’ brass knew he was coming off injuries when they drafted him, and they maintained a “wait-and-see” approach to his development.
Coach Jeff Hornacek said in December that Len had been staying active and hitting the weight room while he waited for his injury to get better.
There were times in 2013 where he couldn’t take a step at all without the aid of crutches. So any stint of action in an NBA game, even six minutes of it, is progress.