Alex Len excited to learn from Tyson Chandler
PHOENIX — The Suns’ off-season addition of center Tyson Chandler was met with praise — for what he brings on and off the court — by nearly everyone in Phoenix and numerous others around the NBA.
That includes the guy whom Chandler will jettison from the starting lineup.
Alex Len, who started 44 of the 69 games he played a year ago, projects to gain the most personally from the addition of the former NBA champion, all-star, defensive player of the year and Olympic gold medalist. And Len knows it, even if it means he comes off the bench.
Of course, a starting gig would be nice — especially since Len enters this season healthier than his first two. But Len sees the long-term benefits.
"On the defensive end, he’s one of the best bigs to probably ever play the game," Len said Monday during the Suns annual media day event before the team made the trek to Flagstaff for training camp. "I’m excited to have the opportunity to learn from him.
"The way he blocks shots, the way he communicates. I think I can learn just from watching, just from being around him."
The learning doesn’t start in training camp. It began a month ago in pickup games at US Airways Center. Even in the informal setting, Len picked up on Chandler’s many nuances of playing center.
"I’ve been learning a lot, day by day, especially on the defensive end," Len said.
Chandler had to learn many of these not-so-obvious details on his own after he was drafted out of high school in 2001.
"I played with some very good power forwards, but I didn’t have many veteran centers early in my career," the 14-year veteran Chandler said. "It took me five or six years to figure a lot of things out."
Len improved each of his first two seasons in the NBA after he was drafted No. 5 overall in 2013; he averaged 6.3 points on 51 percent shooting and 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season. But like Chandler, Len appeared on a five-to-six-year path before everything would click.
Chandler’s presence is expected to be an accelerant.
"He has a promising future," said Chandler, who is signed to a four-year, $52 million deal. "He has all the tools you want to see in a big man. I don’t think he knows how good he can be.
"He doesn’t understand how big he is and how much of a factor he can be. I look forward to helping him with that."
Chandler, too, said he looks forward to having another true center in the rotation, something that wasn’t the case the past few seasons on the teams with which he played in Dallas and New York.
And the two 7-footers won’t always be in a battle for the same minutes. Coach Jeff Hornacek said there could be times he uses a lineup with both Chandler and Len.
"I would love to see that," Len said. "Nobody will come close to the rim with both of us on the court at the same time."