PHOENIX — And this is why the Phoenix Suns made the Shavlik Randolph pick-up. Miles Plumlee will miss a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday with a sprained knee, and rookie center Alex Len will start in his place, against the NBA’s best rebounder, DeAndre Jordan, no less.
It’s unclear whether Plumlee was injured in the Suns’ Sunday night game against the Atlanta Hawks, when he came down awkwardly and never returned to the game after showing a mild limp in running up and down the court.
After that game, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek didn’t have specifics about Plumlee’s injury and only offered that he might not have been used down the stretch anyhow with the Morris twins playing well.
Hornacek didn’t mention Plumlee’s injury prior to the game on Tuesday either, but he was asked about Len’s minutes moving forward. Hornacek said that Shavlik Randolph and Leandro Barbosa were given minutes Sunday to break them in, and he expected those two to earn minutes over rookies Archie Goodwin and Len.
“As we go down this stretch of playing these top teams, probably might go with those guys and not rookies,” Hornacek said. “They don’t get the bad calls that rookies get.
“It’s tough to play young guys extended minutes — the 15-20 minutes you’d like to get them as rookies — because of the situation we’re in. We still want to give them some tastes of being out there against these top teams. We’d like to try to do that.”
This is why the Randolph signing and the waiving of Slava Kravtsov was far from meaningless. The Suns were one injury away from having just one worthy rotation player taller than 6-foot-10, and that one player was a rookie.
Len certainly will get his shot on Tuesday against the Clippers, who themselves are banged up. Coach Doc Rivers doesn’t have an idea when guard J.J. Redick will be back, and replacement starter Jamal Crawford is out with an injured calf muscle.
Doc Rivers on the Suns: “They remind me so much of, I had a team in Orlando, my first year I think, a heart and hustle group. I remember, Pat Riley after a game saying, ‘I tried to tell our guys that they play hard, but you guys play hard. You can’t practice that in shootaround. You can go over sets and plays and I kept saying it all over in shootaround: “Hey guys, they play hard.” You can’t work at it in shootaround. What do you do? Have your guys run at full speed?
“I thought they jumped on us in LA and we couldn’t recover. It’s almost like our guys were surprised that a team would get up in to ‘em and play ‘em physical and run ‘em. I think that was a good lesson for us.”