This was supposed to be the season Alex Len showed off. When Len didn’t get the free-agent contract he wanted over the summer and had to sign a one-year, $4.2 million qualifying offer from the Suns, he re-dedicated himself, working on his body to become stronger and, at the suggestion of the front office and coaching staff, trimming the fat in his game. Forget the low-post moves or jumpers from the elbow. Phoenix wanted Len to do three things: defend, rebound and finish at the rim on pick-and-rolls. “Simplify things,” Len said. That’s exactly what Len has done. He’s averaging nine points per game on 48-percent shooting and pulling down a career-best 9.3 rebounds per game. At 36 minutes a game, his averages would jump to 14.1 points and 14.6 rebounds. But there’s the rub. Len is averaging 22.9 minutes instead of 36. Recently, he’s become the odd man out among the Suns’ three centers. Len has not played in two of Phoenix’s past three games, the 119-108 loss to Minnesota on Sunday and the 113-107 overtime loss to Milwaukee last Wednesday. He sandwiched those games around 19 minutes in a blowout loss to New Orleans. “I want to be out there and I want to compete,” Len said. “I put in the work hoping to show my skills on the court. So when you’re not able to help your team it’s frustrating.” Interim coach Jay Triano said Len has done nothing to warrant his benching. He simply prefers to have veterans Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe on the floor. “It’s been hard to get him playing time,” Triano said. “When you have veteran players in front of you sometimes they’re going to demand the playing time. I have to find ways to get Alex in because he has been good and he’s rebounded the ball for us.” Because the Suns are 7-14 and on track to miss the playoffs for an eighth straight season, it would seem to make more sense to play the 24-year-old Len rather than Monroe or Chandler, neither of whom are in Phoenix's long-term plans. Giving Len extended minutes might help Phoenix decide whether it wants to try to re-sign him when Len becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Suns' Alex Len fights frustration as playing time disappears
Arizona Central | Nov 28