Beginning on Saturday, Phoenix Suns center Alex Len gets a new experience. After missing out on the Las Vegas Summer League last season as rookie, the second-year pro gets to hone his game in live action.
Between injury issues and a crowded front court, Len only played 362 minutes last season. The most he was on the court in a single game was 21 minutes.
With free agent Channing Frye signing with the Orlando Magic, there will be open minutes at the center position and this is the start of Len’s chance to seize the potential opportunity. Frye didn’t start at center, but he got run there in a variety of lineups.
After the Suns’ first Summer League practice Tuesday, the Maryland product said he’s put on 10 pounds since the season ended by working out five times a week in Phoenix.
Len also told the media he’s been working to expand his offensive game.
“Both (referring to post-ups or jump shooting),” explained Len. “In the summer you work on everything. For me this season I talked to the coaches it’s still going to be easy stuff — pick and rolls, catch and finish and hit open shots.”
Assistant coach Mike Longabardi, who is coaching the Suns summer league squad, expanded on what he’s looking for from Len during the time in Las Vegas.
“I told Alex this summer league is very big for him, we all know that,” he said. “I want him to be available so he’s got to be durable so he can play. We want to keep him injury free as best as possible.
“Offensively, I want him to be efficient. I want him to take care of the ball, take great shots. Defensively, his communication has got to be great and play with multiple effort. The most important thing is conditioning for him. If he’s in shape he’s got to play and push through so he’s not tired and making silly mistakes whether it’s a foul or turnover.”
One interesting aspect Len and Longabardi referred to was giving a look to big lineups featuring Len and fellow center Miles Plumlee. In those situations Len would be used as a “mini-stretch four.”
But don’t expect Len to get a ton of minutes in Vegas; the Suns would prefer to bring the young Ukrainian along slowly.
“We’re going to be smart, so whatever (trainer Aaron) Nelson, (head coach Jeff) Hornacek and (GM) Ryan McDonough feel is possible (we’ll do),” Longabardi said. “This is big for him, we want him develop, but we have back-to-backs, we have three straight days of two-a-days, so we’re going to be smart with that.”
The Suns start their Las Vegas Summer League schedule Saturday against the Golden State Warriors at Cox Pavilion. The game will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. Phoenix time.