Alex Len still expects to make impact in frustrating year

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PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns center Alex Len was dealing with an upset stomach after practice on Thursday and that wasn’t the worst part of his day. After talking with me, Len was off to the dentist. Most people that have to deal with the horrors of the dentist office and an upset stomach in the same day would probably say it’s one of the more frustrating days in a year.

For the 7-foot-1 center, Thursday’s irritations don’t touch the frustration of his rookie campaign with the Suns.

The fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft this past summer has only played 31 minutes in four games and has not played since Nov. 20. Len has been limited due to reoccurring soreness in his left ankle that required surgery over the summer to repair a partial stress fracture.

The experience of having to spend the beginning of his NBA career rehabbing an injury has been the most frustrating event in Len’s life.

“This has been the worst,” Len said. “It is your rookie year and you can’t play as the team is playing great.

“You just want to be a part of it.”

The Suns are off to a surprising 12-9 start and are looking more and more like a playoff team rather than the lottery squad most people projected them to be at the beginning of the season. The quick start does have a benefit for Len — it allows him to ease his way back into the rotation instead of having pressure to hurry back to the court.

“(The fast start) takes some pressure off and allows me to work on things so I am ready when I come back,” Len said.

The fifth pick in the draft hopes to return to practice in the next couple of weeks and is spending his time doing things he can control. He’s lifting weights, riding the bike and working on stationary shooting. He still sees himself making an impact this season for the Suns.

“I can help the team defensively with my size by challenging shots and grabbing rebounds,” Len said of what he will bring to the team when he comes back. “We have a lot of potential and young guys who give it their all on the court.”

Len’s possible return to the Suns rotation could be a game-changer for down the stretch as the team battles for positioning, perhaps even in regards to the postseason. Len’s size and rebounding will be able to take some pressure off Miles Plumlee and bring a new energy to the team that hopes to be playing important games in March and April.

In a few months, all of this frustration could be over with for Len, and it could turn out to be a successful year. Just think, the worst part of his season is already over with.

He got his visit with the dentist out of the way.

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