In the first part of his interview with me, Alex Len talked about his improving health and his role on this Phoenix Suns team. He mentioned that he was hoping to use training camp as a period to " get in shape, get [his] wind back." The 20 year old Ukranian big man is hoping to get back to 100% after his two ankle surgeries and reiterated his willingness to do whatever he can to help the team win.
For a brief review of the highlights of Len's game, watch the following DraftExpress breakdown of his strengths and weaknesses:
DraftExpress, who had Len listed #1 prospect in the 2013 NBA class in their final pre-draft rankings a few months ago, listed transition, protecting the rim, pick & roll, face up game, post passing and "major upside" all as strengths of Alex's game. Although he is quite young and raw, he no doubt has the sinze, potential and versatile skillset to be a premier big man in this league. With this scouting report in mind, let's jump into the interview:
Q: I know you started playing again recently but has the coaching staff been telling you what to work on in terms of any specific skills?
A: Right now, I've been working a lot on defense, like team defense. Just trying to learn little things to help the team overall. I've been working a little bit with coaches on my post moves and stuff like that but I think for me, it's going to be about just helping the team on defense and being a presence at the rim - block shots, rebound, run the floor. Things like that are going to be big.
Q: Who's the best European player in the league right now?
A: I really like Marc Gasol and Tony Parker. I think they're really good players. I tried to watch a lot of Gasol this offseason because I really like his game. I've been trying to watch his footwork and how he uses his body and stuff like that.
Q: I do see some similarities in both your games and actually think your skillset and potential put you somewhere between both Marc and Pau Gasol in terms of style. Other than Ilgauskas, who a lot of people compare you to, who do you think is a good NBA comparison for you and who do you try to model your game after?
A: It's hard to say. I don't really compare myself with anybody. I just try to watch other guys who are really good players like Tim Duncan so I can try and take little things from them. But I don't think it makes sense to compare myself to anybody. I just need to work hard.
Q: Let's step off the court for a moment. What are your favorite off-court hobbies?
A: I really like movies. I love watching movies.
Q: Awesome, me too. What's your favorite movie?
A: I really like old-school movies. My favorite movie of all time probably, I don't know if you've heard of it, is A Bronx Tale. That's my favorite. I really like Tarantino movies, too, like Pulp Fiction. I've probably watched every Tarantino movie.
Q: Wow, you have great taste. I love Tarantino as well. How do you like the city of Phoenix so far?
A: I like Phoenix so far. I really like the weather, I've been getting tan. The people are really nice, too. All these people already recognize me on the streets and just wish me good luck and stuff like that, so that's really nice.
Q: What's your favorite jersey of the new Suns uniform sets you and some other guys modeled so well recently?
A: The orange ones with the sleeves. I used to wear sleeves in college so I like those.
Q: One thing I thought was very interesting about you is that you like to play chess. That seems like a somewhat rare and unique interest for an NBA player. On a personal level, I think it's really cool because I love to play chess too and used to play in a lot of tournaments when I was younger. Is chess something you do in your spare time off the court to relax?
A: I play a lot with my agent and actually with some guys from Maryland, too. We play online sometimes. I've been playing chess since I was maybe 6, when my grandfather taught me. When I moved to Maryland two years ago, I had been playing a lot online with my grandfather. From Skype, you can call and play at the same time.
Q: Let's end with this: what would be a successful rookie season for you in your own opinion?
A: I would be happy if we're going to win games this year, you know? I want to be part of a winning team. It doesn't really matter if I play good and the team loses. Nobody really cares. When the team wins and you don't score a lot of points but you contributed to help the team win, that's good.
If there's one conclusion I personally surmised from this interview, it's that Alex Len and I are basically the same person. We both play chess, are fans of Tarantino and are currently in long-distance interracial relationships. Really, the only differences are that I'm a little over a year older than Alex and Alex is a little over a foot taller than me. That's pretty much it.
Suns fans, get excited. Not only is Alex Len the highest drafted Suns player in 26 years, but he's a humble, likable and talented rookie. Here's wishing Alex Len all the best as he gets ready for training camp and the start of his first NBA season. Let the Lensanity begin.