In a world full of Melo Trimbles and Jake Laymans, it can be tough to break into popular discussion if you're a former Maryland basketball player, even within the spheres of Terps fans. But sometimes anonymity can be the ideal, as Phoenix Suns center/former Terp Alex Len found out on Monday.
The Suns faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers, meaning Len had to match up against the self-proclaimed "best big man in the NBA," Joel Embiid. Now, the good news is that our Maryland hero made his way onto numerous highlights. The bad news is that he was usually on the wrong end of them.
The game started out pretty well for Len. Less than a minute after subbing in for starting center Tyson Chandler, he had outscored Embiid 5-2 for the game by way of two close baskets, one of which resulted in an and-one.
Unfortunately, that's where the good fortune stopped. A couple of minutes later, this happened:
Getting blocked so badly that you turn the ball over to the other team is akin to getting a wedgie from the school bully and being sent the principal’s office for indecent exposure. To add insult to injury, interim head coach Jay Triano benched him 11 seconds later.
Len did get another opportunity to come back in and play. He was able to get more than six minutes of game time without anything bad happening to him, and he even scored a few times to build up some confidence. Even when Embiid checked back in, Len did not back down and attempted another dunk, which was… ill-advised.
Yikes. Not a great offensive look for the Ukrainian big man. But who cares? Len has more defensive win shares over his career than offensive ones. Even with all his shots getting blocked, surely he was solid defensively, right?
Yeah, I got nothing.
All jokes aside, Len has found reasonable success this season in his fifth year with the Suns. When you adjust his numbers for starter's minutes, he's averaging career highs in points and rebounds, and he has an above-average player efficiency rating for the first time in his career.
Has Len lived up to the standards set by other lottery picks? Not necessarily, but he's on the upswing and is at least showing improvement, which should count for something. Just maybe not in this game.