The Phoenix Suns’ recent surge can be attributed to many factors, but chief among them has to be the emergence of center Alex Len.
The second-year pro out of Maryland was inserted into the starting lineup on Dec. 15, and since then the team has won 14 of 18 games. The 21-year-old is averaging 7.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 23.4 minutes per game as a starter, and has given the team an inside presence it sorely needed.
However, if there is one thing that may hold Len back it is the very thing that limited him last season — ankle problems.
Len has had surgery to repair each of his ankles, with the issues limiting him last season. There have been no such problems this year, though that does not mean his feet are not on the Suns’ minds.
“I think he’s got a great future,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “The one thing is we always have to be a little careful with the ankle. His foot is a little sore right now.”
The coach added that the soreness is why Len played just 19 minutes in the team’s 115-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night. Len scored six points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots in the victory.
“Even though he’ll say, ‘Yeah, it’s OK, it’s OK,'” Hornacek said. “When you have the surgeries like that and it starts to get — I think he’s got a little tendinitis in there. We just want to take it easy with him and make sure we don’t wear him out.”
Len played just two seasons at the University of Maryland before being selected fifth overall by the Suns in the 2013 NBA Draft. He totaled 1,004 minutes his entire sophomore campaign, and is already already up to 876 this season — with nearly half a season (and maybe playoffs) left to go.
“It’s his first year of playing real big minutes so we kind of have to build him up to play those big minutes,” Hornacek said. “Especially with the stretch of games we have coming up, these next seven or eight games we’re going to need some pretty big minutes out of Alex, so it was great to get him a little rest last night and hopefully he’s ready to go at full strength the next game.”