Alex Len undergoes right ankle surgery, Suns announce


While currently recovering from a left ankle surgery that had him in a boot, Alex Len’s routine medical exam showed the Phoenix Suns’ medical staff the “very beginnings” of a stress fracture in the center’s right ankle. The team announced surgery was performed Monday.

Len should be able to return by the beginning of the season, the team said.

“As a precautionary measure, our medical staff determined that it would be prudent to perform surgery on Alex Len’s right ankle at this time,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby in a press release. “That surgery was successfully completed this morning. As part of a routine evaluation, our medical team identified the very beginnings of a stress fracture in Alex’s right ankle even though Alex was entirely asymptomatic. We expect him to be available to begin the season.”

But now the questions arise about the foot injuries. If Len truly was considered a No. 1 talent like Nerlens Noel, why did he also fall past the fourth pick?

Len probably hasn’t been doing much more than walking because of his left ankle stress fracture so how there’s a stress fracture in his other ankle is concerning. And even if the find was caught on time, a non-medical professional’s guess about surgery being needed probably means it’s a big enough deal. Then again, it might be a purely preventative move since the fifth overall pick from the 2013 draft will be out until close to the beginning of the year anyway.

When general manager Ryan McDonough met with the media on draft night, he addressed the ankle issues.

“I don’t know how much you can answer this,” I asked him, “but just that foot injury and being a big guy — that’s generally a bigger concern — do you know anything about feeling good that that’s not a longterm issue?”

“I would say short answer, ‘Yes,’” McDonough responded. “Our medical people, who are some of the best in the league, took a close look at it and studied it. And we’re confident he won’t have issues going forward. So I guess I’ll just say we would not have drafted him if we thought it was a significant medical risk.”

Still, maybe it’s not. With medical technology these days, teams can detect potential stress fractures far before they become real issues. An aside: From my knowledge of the Arizona Wildcats basketball team, there have been four noted stress fracture finds in the past two years between three players, and none required more than six weeks of rest.

Sometimes rest is the only thing needed to keep a player on the court without missing significant amounts of time. And the good news here, if there’s any, is that the Suns caught this before it became a bigger deal.

Read about Len’s left ankle issues and a controversy at Maryland from The Baltimore Sun

And 1

The Suns officially signed 29th overall pick Archie Goodwin on Monday.

  • William Hill

    “The team performed surgery…” I certainly hope not.

  • http://jabberwalker.com Ian

    “The team performed surgery…”
    “Beasley, hand me the scalpel.”
    Beasley looks past the ankle, his eyes staring into the distance.
    “Beasley!”
    His hand began to quiver, a bead of sweat forms at his temple.
    “Beas got this”, he declares as he dives the scalpel into Len’s knee missing by over a foot.
    “Godammit!” The Suns uniformly scream.
    Beasley releases the J hit, shrugs, and walks out of the room.

  • Peter

    This was a horrible pick. Awful. I want Alex to prove me wrong, I really do, but stress fractures in each ankle of a guy who is 7’1? yeah. That’s really spectacular.

    You don’t want to draft Noel because of his knee? Fine, I accept that. But how the hell can we go out and draft a player who plays a position where we already have a starter who is already better than that player we’re drafting. Tell me, what is Alex Len’s ceiling? pretty sure that ceiling is called “marcin gortat.”

    All of which would be fine, if we intended to trade Gortat. Big Mac says he doesn’t intend to (but obviously GMs lie) but our actions thus far suggest that could be true. Do we actually intend to let our most tradeable asset (two-way big man on an expiring deal is a huge value no matter what any of you say) walk away for literally nothing, instead of using him to try to move up in a loaded 2014 draft? That would be absolutely moronic.

    The only way this draft pick works is if we are tanking, since Len will either 1) not be able to play enough to provide meaningful minutes, or 2) not be good enough to provide meaningful minutes (you can say the spacing sucked at Maryland all you want, but when you aren’t even third team ACC, that says a lot). How do we know that isn’t the case? Because we just traded for a starting point guard! Sure, we already have one of those – but don’t worry, they can PLAY TOGETHER!

    This team doesn’t believe in shooting guards. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Robert Sarver’s head, but we have not had an actual honest to god shooting guard ever since we let Joe Johnson walk because we were too cheap to pay him. Do you know what the Suns have missed in literally every single playoff series loss, spurs or otherwise? A go-to scorer who gets the ball in crunch time. Like, you know, Joe Johnson. but don’t worry, we have TWO white centers who aren’t good at scoring. But they’re tall!

    I am hoping to god that Archie Goodwin is a steal for us. Shooting 44% and putting up 14 points as a freshman at UK is a solid stat line. We desperately desperately desperately need someone who is able to go off the dribble and create their own shot (not you, beasley, put the ball away). Dragic can do this a bit, but he is undersized for a two guard no matter what anyone says. Is goodwin that guy? We’re years away from knowing that (and pick 29′s history would suggest no, not a chance).

    I’d love to say I see a plan, but there clearly is not one. Lon Babby hung every decision around Lance Blanks’ neck, fired him, and then let Big Mac go out and get players at the positions THAT WE ALREADY HAVE. Don’t talk to me about Caron butler; Butler is 31 years old. he is not a part of the future of this team.

    As it stands – what the hell is the future of this team? I don’t know, and I can’t stand it anymore.

    /novel vent

  • Nick

    No way they find “beginnings of a stress fracture” now and not a few weeks ago when they evaluated him pre-draft… right? They must have planned this since they drafted him. I liked the pick when they made it, but drafting a big guy who is recovering from ankle surgery knowing he already needs another surgery? Seems a bit hopeful

  • dponce

    ouch this is really disappointing news. i hope he is able to bounce back and stay healthy. this is keeping him from developing at all this summer, if hes able to play to start the season he will be extreamly out of shape and rusty. better hope ben mclemore and noel dont tear it up this year or were gonna be the clowns of the league

  • dponce

    all negative aside i hope everything turns out fine

  • Tim

    Well perhaps not letting him develop over the summer and just throwing him into the fray is a great way to mail in this season, but count me among the concerned for him needing future ankle surgeries.

  • Bryan

    Greg Oden much? Or is that too high of an upside?

  • Foreveris2long

    i applauded the draft pick under the assumption other than the then existing ankle surgery, he was otherwise healthy. While a part of me wants to place concern with the Suns medical staff, I know enough about cumulative injuries to the good ankle or knee to know that the undue wear and tear placed on the good leg due to keeping weight or pressure off the bad leg, often results in these types of injuries.

    As I am not a doctor and cannot say for certain that this is a cumulative injury, if it is I do not think there is reason for concern. It could happen to anyone big or tall. However if he has chronic ankle problems and our medical staff failed to diagnose it, as a GM I would be furious. As a fan list me as being concerned.

  • Peter

    You don’t draft a Big with an injury history. You just don’t. Drafts are just littered with so many big men who could never live up because of the extra potential for injury in their larger frame. This is just yet another failure under Lon Babby.

    I don’t care if they want to blame everything on Blanks; Sarver has been running this team into the ground for years now and now he has Babby to be his partner in idiocy. How you could possibly land the first top five pick we’ve had in decades and draft the ONE player that was absolutely worst for us is just plain absurd. We lost multiple seasons of STAT to injuries that couldn’t have been predicted, so what do we do? draft a guy who we know has injuries and will continue to have them. FANTASTIC MOVE.

    I envy so many other franchises.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    1) Yes, the team performing surgery was poorly written :)

    2) Forever, that’s a good point. Could be a result of having favored the other foot, dating back to playing on the injury for so long. Like you all, I’m no expert. But I think these are both fairly minor problems to this point. It’s not like Andrew Bogut, who kept spraining his ankles. Stress fractures are somewhat common, and Suns will take a preventative procedure rather than waiting for something bad to happen.

  • NOitall

    I suspect that Len will play a lot of D-league ball this year.

  • Scott

    It’s possible the Suns did not have enough access to Len to determine prior to the draft the full extent of his medical condition. What I recall reading is that the Suns – and the other teams Len visited – only had access to the records of the medical work-ups done previously. They were not able to do their own work-ups.

    As for the idea that the new partial break was due to compensating, that seems likely, as if you recall Len continued playing even though his left leg was sore. That would mean he put more pressure on his right leg.

    Still, it’s not good that this is all it took to create another fracture.

    I’m not going to say my fears about Len’s future as an injury-riddled big are confirmed at this point, but … obviously the needle sways a bit further in that direction.

  • Foreveris2long

    Thanks Kevin. Things like this happen rather frequently to the good leg or ankle, irrespective of height. Let’s hope for the best. While I cannot blame fans for being concerned, I would be more concerned if he showed up at pre-season healthy but played like a stiff. Since most of this message board thought he was the wrong draft selection, when the surgery article was printed, most wanted to call 911 for a medical emergency.

  • Scott

    The way I visualize the team operating on Len …

    It begins with Beasley giving Len anesthesia, but he keeps bringing the mask off Len’s face to take a puff of his own.

    Brown sets up the IV bag to dribble, and dribble, and dribble …

    Marshall tries to stick the IV needle in Len’s arm, but he can’t penetrate.

    Scola is trying to enter the operating room, but Gortat keeps blocking him.

    Dragic has gloves and mask on and is ready to assist.

    Frye is lying down on the other table.

    The new guys are sitting on a bench in the waiting room, wondering what the hell is going on.

    Hornacek paces along the bench.

    Tucker bolts out of the OR, breathless in a bloody smock and cap, and says to Babby, McD and Sarver: “You’ve got twins!”
    :D

  • Daniel

    You guys hate on Beasley but at least he plays. 17ppg per 36 and ten points off the bench. Not bad. Just didnt live up to all of your expectations.

  • Scott

    @Daniel -

    Beasley also has a PER of 10.91.

    On Dec 7, 2012, it was noted that despite being a relatively high-use player for the Suns, he had the worst +/- rating of any player in the NBA.

    “During every 48 minutes he is on the court, the Suns are giving up about 12 more points than they score.”

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/blogs/182589851.html

  • Keith

    Peter your post says it all. I was looking forward to our big 3 of McLemore, Gortat, and the Dragon, and to further my pipe dream was hoping Beasley could re-acquire his shooting touch under Horny and not turn the ball over so much. How do you pick an injured big man after the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant debacle? How do u pass on an athletic scorer after the Millic/Anthony/Wade draft?

  • Keith

    Actually your post was a little off. I though Raja Bell was decent, and I loved Jason Richardson.

  • Smovas

    Foreveris, it’s good to see a familiar person from the old days at the Central.

  • foreveris2long

    Smovas good to see you. D’Breezy should appear soon, formerly David, whom I called Big Dave. You will also remember Hawki. Stay on board as there are some insightful posts on this board.

  • Daniel

    @Scott- That statistic makes it seem as if he is the only one on defense and the points are going through him and all of our Suns players have deficiencies in their games but we call out Beasley and I just don’t understand why.

  • Scott

    @Daniel -

    With all due respect, I don’t understand what you don’t understand. The PER and +/- stats pretty well spell it out.

    Beasley can sometimes score points in a game, but he typically does so inefficiently. Players have to be able to score efficiently in order to win. There’s only so much time and so many possessions.

    As for defense, as I’ve said many times before on this forum, Beasley can defend some players well at PF. He did a good job on Blake Griffin, for example. However, he does a poor job of defending at small forward.

    Beasley has also, at times, provided some assists. Unfortunately, throughout his career he turns the ball over more than he assists.

    It’s probably fair to say that he has excellent physical traits, but his problems stem mostly from low b-ball IQ / poor decision-making, average handles, and an inconsistent defensive motor.

    Overall, the problem is that when Beasley is on the floor, the team loses.

    If the Suns wanted to minimize the negative effects Beasley presents, they’d only play him at PF, and they’d try to set him up to score more, so he’d be less tempted to dribble into traffic.

    I’d definitely concede that last season Gentry, in particular, seemed to play Beasley in a way that maximized his shortcomings, almost as if he wanted the Suns to lose games.

  • Daniel

    @Scott- I agree that Beasley has problems in his game but the truth is he is the fans’ scappegoat to the Suns losing when quite frankly we wouldn’t be any different without him. They are 1-6 when Beasley isn’t playing and I don’t know maybe he’ll do something this season with it being the year he could either stay or not get paid fully next season. (Don’t love Beasley but just tired of hearing everyone cry and have so much hate over him when we wouldn’t be any different without him.)

  • bk

    KFC: We do the chicken right.
    Suns: We do the ankle right.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    @ Peter ,,,Nice Rant
    @ Scott …Funny stuff in the ER

    @ DBreezy
    I know there has been no talk of playing Brown & Bledsoe as starters but I believe having Dragic & Bledsoe on the court together for long stretches is not a good idea.
    I think there is a stat somewhere that shows they are not good at playing D from the 2 spot.

    As for Len….Oh Man….hopefully, Forever is right & it’s just from compensating from his other injury….
    but
    there’s a “ring of stiff” chair waiting right between (alphabetically speaking) Joe Kleine & Luc Longley.

  • Scott

    @Daniel -

    Why do you believe the Suns would be the same without Beasley? Playing him big minutes at SF early in the season cost the Suns several games. That’s what +/- means.

    For example, the Suns lost the season opener to Golden State by 2 points. Beasley played 22 minutes. If you take the statistic that he costs the Suns 12 points for every 48 minutes he plays, his 22 minutes cost the Suns about 5 points. This means that if they played someone else with a better +/- rating … and in this case, since Beasley had the worst +/- in the NBA, it means literally “anyone” … then they would have won that game.

    On 11/14 the Suns lost in Chicago by 6 points. Beasley played 28 minutes, causing the Suns to give up 6 points, and that difference made the game.

    On 11/25, the Suns lost to Philly by 3 points. Beasley played 32 minutes. By our rough rule, that means Beasley cost the Suns 8 points, which would have given the Suns the victory.

    On 11/30, the Suns lost to Toronto by 4 points. Beasley played 30 minutes. He cost the Suns 7 or 8 points, which again would have given the Suns the win had they played someone else.

    Now of course things might have turned out differently in so many ways if someone else was played in these games instead of Beasley. But if he had the worst +/- rating in the league, then anyone else playing would have done better for the Suns than he did, and just in the first month there’s a decent case for projecting an additional 4 wins.

    I won’t go through the rest of the season looking at each game, but if you extrapolate +4 wins each month for 6 months, that’s +24 wins.

    I doubt the Suns would have made all those wins without Beasley, because whoever they played in his place might have been a player who would cost the Suns, say, 6 points every 48 minutes. But that would still be twice as good as Beasley’s overall play.

    Not every gifted athlete or ball player can make it in the NBA. But having said all that, if this next season the Suns were to play a unit consisting of Gortat, Beasley, Butler, Dragic, and Bledsoe, it might not be that bad. This assumes that the line-up shoots the 3 well enough to spread the floor, and that the combo of Dragic and Bledsoe can work with Beasley to set up plays for him such that he only has to focus on hitting 3s and finishing at the rim.

    If Beasley can fight consistently on defense at PF, and not have to create so many plays for himself on offense, it could significantly increase his efficiency.

  • Scott

    @hawki -

    But if Bledsoe and Dragic are killing the opposition on offense (yes, I do dream), then all Bledsoe and Dragic have to do is defend reasonably at SG.

  • Scott

    I’m sensing there’s still some doubt about how bad Beasley was last year.

    If you look at Beasley’s win shares statistic, he had -2.5 offensive win shares, the worst in Suns history.

    Suns players who were bad but still had better offensive win shares than Beasley include:

    Art Harris
    William Bedford (drug addict, went to prison)
    Georgi Glouchkov (Eastern Bloc player, played 1 year)
    Rick Robey
    Jim Jackson (bad regular season, excellent playoffs run)
    Gary Gregor

    Beasley’s -2.5 OWS makes him the 9th worst in the NBA since the beginning of the 3 pt era.

    Beasley has more turnovers than assists, more field goals attempted than total points, and on pure scoring – 0.79 points per possession – he ranks 381 in the league.

    Those stats are from:
    http://www.brightsideofthesun.com/2013/4/21/4247784/michael-beasleys-offensive-season

    Michael Beasley’s OWS is the 17th worst in NBA history, according to Bleacher Report. Beasley’s shooting throughout his career has been below the league average.

    http://www.chartgo.com/savedcharts/986674a8aa.png

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1649918-phoenix-suns-must-cut-ties-with-michael-beasley-at-all-costs

    And from Coach’s Rant website, giving awards for the 2012-2013 season, we have the following comment.

    Worst Player of the Year: Michael Beasley (PHX)

    This was a tricky award to give out. I couldn’t just give it to Darko Milicic. That would be too easy. It needed to be a player that has played enough minutes to be bad over a long period of time. I decided to look at win shares for some help. The player with the least amount of win shares with -1.3 this season: Michael Beasley. To give you an idea of how terrible that is, Kwame Brown has 0.4 win shares this season. Yeah.

    http://coachsrant.com/tag/michael-beasley/

  • Daniel

    @Scott I’m sorry but those statistics mean nothing when you have 4 other guys on the court. You’re still making it seem like he’s the only guy on the court. The plus/minus rating is the differential of points scored while you’re in the game and it is completely misleading. In all the games you named with the exception of the Golden State one were games where Beasley was playing good. Vs. Chicago gice the Suns 6 points but take away his 12. Still a loss. Now Vs. Philadelphia give the Suns 8 points but take away Beasley’s 21. Even Greater loss. Now Vs. Toronto give the Suns 8 points but take away his 12. Still a loss. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but stats are misleading. Drgic could have had a minus 20 statistic but whos to say he specifically had a bad game. Watching the games and not relying on the stats I’ve seen Beasley hot but he doesn’t get the ball. And I’ve seen Beasley cold and he is ice cold but I don’t get that from the almighty “+/-” scale. I’ve witnessed it. But I do agree with you that Dragic and Bledsoe might make a dynamic backcourt. Like you I am excited to see it!

  • DBreezy

    Well obviously a lot of Suns fans will be watching the Kings SL game tomorrow and the future of both BMac and Noel even that much more. Who knows what the reason is for the stress fractures, but it’s not good as that’s not really the kind of injury the Suns training staff can do much about relative to Noel’s knee for example.

    I was already skeptical about Len playing many minutes early between his recovery and large time without conditioning. Now it will be worse as he’s likely to miss all of camp and preseason games at a minimum. Getting his sea legs as a rookie big during the season is going be a bear, we may not see much useful out of him until after the All-Star break. I would have taken Noel with the pick, so obviously I’m fine with Len not being much of a factor for most of this season.

    You have to wonder what was up with our medical staff on this one. The word was that the Suns passed on Noel because they weren’t able to look at his medical records and I think it’s a pretty safe bet that they didn’t get a close enough look at Len’s either. Seems weird when you see things get out all the time like Blair’s lack of ACL’s, PJ3′s knee, Sully’s back, Oden’s leg/hand and knee wear, etc.

    @Peter,

    I agree with Hawki, nice rant, although I would say it doesn’t really matter what any of us think Gortat’s trade value is. The guy has been available since the 2012 draft. Blanks tried to dance around it, but when he admitted that the Suns tried to get into the top of last year’s draft Gortat was the only thing they had to offer. He’s been very much available since his uninspired play and outburst last season. I don’t think the Len news will affect Marcin’s availability one bit. Thing is the market isn’t really interested in the guy for a price that’s worth it.

    @Hawki,

    I agree that playing 2 pg’s for long stretch isn’t a good idea. Looking at 82games.com I didn’t see anybody playing a pg at the 2 for more than 39% of the team’s minutes-and that was MIN a team forced to do so because of injuries to Roy and Budinger. IIIRC no playoff team played a pg at SG for more than about 32% of the team’s total mins.

    As you stated most of the defensive results weren’t good, but who knows if the front office really cares about that for this season? They’re kind of stuck with this configuration for now. Bledsoe really hasn’t proven himself yet, but is line for an extension nonetheless while Goran has proven to be a good starter and has a very affordable deal. I think they’ve gotta let it run for awhile and see what happens. They’re still the worst team in the West, so it’s not a big deal.

  • Scott

    @Daniel -

    Fair enough. I’ve tried to show what other fans see as going on with Beasley, as portrayed by statistics and characteristics. Not everybody has to agree on everything.

    And I agree that every player has his deficiencies, that the other 4 players on the floor affect a player’s performance, and – at least for some Suns fans – Beasley did not live up to expectations. (Although for others, myself included, Beasley performed very close to expectations. Any disappointment with his performance, IMO, should be attributed to Blanks and Gentry.)

    BTW, as a general reminder, broadcasts of Summer League in Vegas run all day tomorrow on NBA TV, with the Suns v Portland airing at 10PM, IIRC. I’ll be watching at least some of it all throughout the day, and I imagine most of the other folks on here will be too. :)

  • Daniel

    @Scott How do you think Archie’s gonna do? I’m eager to see how he does!

  • Scott

    @Daniel -

    Many moons ago, before he started college play, I pegged Archie as a possible All-Star / franchise type talent. I thought the Suns might snag him, and they did. If he does his work and sticks by the Suns, he could end up in the Ring of Honor.

    Or I could be horribly, horribly wrong. lol

    We’ll just have to see how it goes. He’s only 18 right now, and will turn 19 before the season starts, IIRC. I don’t expect much from him in the first two years, but after that I think he’ll show what he’s got … whatever that is.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    Re: the Suns medical staff and Len, see my post at #13 in this thread.

    My take is that the medical staff had only limited information to go on, was not able to do their own testing, and signed off on what they had.

  • Shane

    I’m not about to second guess the Suns’ medical staff with their track record. I’ll just wait and see how this whole Len thing plays out.

  • foreveris2long

    Tim Hardaway Jr. and Austin Rivers looked really good yesterday in the Vegas summer league from the glimpses I saw as did Reggie Bulluck with the Clippers. With D. Holiday in New Orleans it should give Rivers some time to develop as a point guard. I recall telling D’Breezy last summer if Rivers is going to be really good in the NBA it will be as a point guard.

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris,

    Austin did look good yesterday, but still primarily as a scorer not a pg from the portions of the game I caught. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, he’s gonna have to improve his FG% no matter where he plays. He did that yesterday.

    We’ll see how Goodwin handles the same kind of transition starting tonight. He has a similar attack mentality as Rivers, although I think he’s a much more willing passer. He’s just isn’t used to doing it, so he’s often inaccurate and doesn’t always see the court equally as a scorer and facilitator when he penetrates.

    Oladipo’s shooting percentages were terrible and he turned it over a lot. He didn’t look fazed by pressure or handling the ball so much, but you could also see the pre draft concern about him not having advanced ball handling skills. His drives were pretty much all straight line, taking advantage of other rooks and often lesser SL players.

  • foreveris2long

    I am looking forward to seeing Goodwin tonight. New Orleans can now be very patient with Rivers with Holiday on board. I think Rivers had 5 or 6 assists yesterday. It was a good developmental step for Rivers yesterday in improving his point guard game.

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  • RickAZ

    Way to learn from the past. Drafting a 7 footer with ankle/foot problems wasn’t a great idea. Ever heard of Greg Oden, Sam Bowie, Ralph Sampson, or Bill Walton?

  • http://personcart7.wordpress.com felix

    Your place can be valueble for me. Many thanks!…

  • sunsn7

    Big Dave, Foreveris, Smovas…how’s it going? Suns are finally in full blown rebuild mode and off to a great start. Just hope they don’t play themselves out of a shot at Andrew Wiggins, knowhatimean?