Alex Len was selected with the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft by the Phoenix Suns, even though he was recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left ankle.
Len told reporters on draft night that he expected to resume basketball activities in August, which would have put him on pace to be ready for full participation in October’s training camp.
But another surgery turned out to be required — on the right ankle this time — that may put that timetable in jeopardy.
“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, via an official release. “That surgery was successfully completed [Friday] 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.”
It’s unclear, obviously, just what “available to begin the season” means, exactly. Will Len be ready to play in games by opening night, or just entering the rehabilitation phase of recovery?
Either way, it isn’t a great sign for an NBA big man that we’re already seeing stress fracture injuries to both ankles at the age of 20.
New Suns GM Ryan McDonough has a lot riding on Len, considering the high draft pick the team used to take him, as well as the fact that McDonough has been scouting this particular prospect from his early stages of basketball development.
“I was in Vilnius, Lithuania to see the under-18 European championships in the summer of 2010,” McDonough said at the introductory press conference for Len, recalling the first time he saw him play. “The gym was about 117 degrees; I think there were 32 people there. I didn’t know Alex, and the kid came out blocking shots above the rim and rebounding. He’s improved a lot since then, but you could see the raw physical package.”
Despite the legitimate causes for concern, we’ll give the highly-regarded training staff of the Suns the benefit of the doubt for now, and hope that these injuries will be the last serious ones that Len has to deal with once his professional career gets started.