The Phoenix Suns have won 13 of their last 17 games with Alex Len as their starting center, and this has been no coincidence. Len has been enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign with per-36 minute averages of 11.1 points, 10.6 rebounds (3.7 offensive) and 2.8 blocks, and has recently began to curb his ignominious foul rate. His active play in the paint has allowed Jeff Hornacek to go as small as he wants at the other 4 positions, and the team's overall efficiency has spiked as a result.
Alas, this is a big man for the Phoenix Suns, so there has to be a caveat.
Len arrived in the NBA fresh off of surgery on both ankles, which reduced his rookie season to little more than a redshirt year, so what seemed like a rather benign statement by Hornacek on Tuesday is instead all the more troubling.
Hornacek revealed on Doug and Wolf 98.7 FM that Len's foot is "a little sore right now", which explains why the big man played only 19 minutes versus the Lakers on Monday night in a Suns win.
"I think he's got a great future. The one thing is we always have to be a little careful with the ankle. His foot is a little sore right now."
Hornacek went on to speculate that it could be a case of tendinitis as a result of Len's recent surgeries, but gave no indication that Len would be missing significant time or even a single game in the near future.
On one hand, it's encouraging that Hornacek mentioned the soreness only in passing, alluding to it being not much more than a minor, nagging issue that the team's medical staff will be monitoring closely.
On the other hand, foot injuries for a man of 7'1 should never be taken lightly. Yao Ming and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, both over 7 feet tall, battled foot injuries throughout their career, with Yao eventually being forced into early retirement.
For us fans, all we can do is hope and trust in the Suns' vaunted medical staff to work their wizardry.
Again, as of now there is no indication that Len will miss any games. The Suns host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight and until further notice, Len will be in uniform. Expect the Suns to be extremely cautious with his minutes, however. The health and future of the young center is abundantly more important than any regular season game the Suns will play this season.