Suns rookie Alex Len is the only current Ukrainian on an NBA roster.
Ankle injuries combined with surprisingly good play from the Suns existing front line (Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins) have kept him on the bench much of the season. However Thursday night he is going to get the start against the Thunder in an important game for the Suns as they fight to get one of the final playoff spots in the West.
But that is far from the most important thing on Len’s mind lately.
For the past several months as the situation in his homeland intensified into an international situation (and proxy battle for the United States and Russia) Len has taken to the court with this message on his shoes:
Len said the situation in his country is a political battle where the common person seems caught in the middle (as it always seems to go in power struggles). Here were his comments to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
“If you watch American news, they say one thing. If you watch Ukrainian news, they say another thing. In my home, I have a Russian channel and they say a totally different thing. It’s politics, so I don’t know what’s really going on. I pray for Ukraine. I want peace.”
The situation in the Ukraine ties back now ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his government rejecting a deal with the European Union in favor of strengthening ties with Russia. This led to mass protests that came to the nation’s capital Kiev, clashes with police, battles with protestors dying and an eventual ousting of Yanukovych. However some people in the country, especially in the Crimean region, have pushed for closer ties with Russia.
Len probably sounds like most average Ukrainians — they want peace, not to be caught in the middle of a political power struggle. #prayforukraine