Currently, things aren’t going very well for the Phoenix Suns.
The team has lost five straight games and eight out of their last nine. After holding one of the eight Western Conference playoff spots for most of the first half of the season, they’re now in 10th place, 2.5 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That’s not to say there aren’t bright spots.
One of them has been the play of second-year center Alex Len, who scored 10 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked a career-high six shots in Monday’s 115-110 loss to the Boston Celtics at US Airways Center.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek stopped short of calling it Len’s best performance as a pro, but remained very excited about the Ukrainian’s performance.
“He was good (Monday) night, he gave us energy,” Hornacek told Doug and Wolf Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Those guys brought the ball in there and he was whacking it away. Offensively, he was aggressive. He continues to grow every single day and that’s why we’re so high on him for the future.
“(He’s a) 21-year-old kid, the things he’s learning and the things he’s doing already — he’s going to get bigger and stronger, he’s going to get a better post-up game as these years go on. You’re going to look three or four years down the road here, and he’s going to be — and I don’t want to put any pressure on him an say ‘All-Star,’ but he’s got a chance.”
After missing the three games prior to the All-Star break with an ankle injury, Len has played with increased confidence since getting back on the court. In the Suns’ last three games, he’s averaged 9.7 points, 11 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots while shooting .542 from the floor.
And while his offensive improvement is easily noticeable, Hornacek says there is still work to be done on that end of the floor.
“I think it’s the low-post game,” he said. “He’s got a good outside touch, but at 7-foot-1, we want to have that as a threat and have that ability. When you look at our team, with Markieff Morris, he’s a mid-range jump shooter, too.
“We need someone to get us some tough baskets inside. A guy who can back a guy in and maybe command a double-team and we can swing it around and get some stuff that way.”