PHOENIX — From the moment the Suns drafted Alex Len with the fifth-overall pick, the plan was to bring the 7-foot-1 center along slowly.
That is still the plan, but with the trade of Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards, the door is now open for Len to play right away, gaining valuable in-game experience rather than watching from the bench.
“My first NBA season and I already get playing time,” he said. “It’s exciting; just go right at it. I think it’s going to help my progress. I’m going to learn so much faster.”
The learning begins this week — that is, if his left ankle feels OK.
Len missed the preseason finale at Denver and subsequent practice time after experiencing some soreness in the ankle, the one doctors operated on in May. He underwent surgery on the right ankle in July.
“I haven’t played for like six months, so of course it’s going to be sore,” he said. “It’s not just (the) ankle, its muscles around it because I didn’t move my foot for five straight months.”
Len was back on the court Monday, going through a full practice including five-on-five full court.
“(The) ankle still feels a little bit sore when I go up and down, but in the half court it feels alright,” he said. “I hope the ankle is going to respond good after this practice. We’ll see how it feels.”
“(Len) looked pretty good (Monday.) I think we’ll see after today how he feels,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Again, if it’s one of these things that he wakes up tomorrow and he’s sore again, then we’ll have to talk how maybe just keep him out until it’s totally gone. But if he comes back (Tuesday) and says, ‘I feel fine,’ then hopefully he just continues to play.”
The Suns open the regular season at home against the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday.
“I’m excited. My first NBA game, of course I’m going to be excited,” said Len, who averaged 2.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.4 minutes in five preseason games. “I don’t care how many minutes I play. I just am going to go out there and just play as hard I as I can. Hopefully my ankle feels good. I’m just going to try to play with a high energy and help the team win games.”