The Wizards now have Len, 13-year veteran Robin Lopez and Moritz Wagner at center, though Wagner entered into the league’s coronavirus protocol Jan. 12 and probably won’t return to games for some time. Players who test positive for the coronavirus must isolate for 10 to 14 days, per NBA rules, and then need time to work back into game shape.
In the meantime, Len gives an extremely shorthanded Washington roster — dealing with six positive coronavirus cases — an extra body. He has averaged 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds for his career, not living up to his draft spot after Phoenix took him No. 5 overall in 2013 but sticking in the league nonetheless.
“Let’s face it, we need bodies,” Coach Scott Brooks said Friday in a virtual news conference. “It’s hard to practice without them. It’s even harder to play in games without them. So we need bodies, and [General Manager Tommy Sheppard] and his staff have been searching and figuring out how we can keep this team moving in the right direction under these circumstances, and I think we’re going to be in a pretty good place come Sunday.”
The Wizards are Len’s fourth team in the past two seasons. The Ukraine native appeared in just seven games after he signed with the Raptors this past offseason, averaging 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes before falling off the depth chart.
Len, who said he tested positive for the coronavirus in June, missed his last three games with the Raptors because of the league’s health and safety protocols.
Even with Len joining the roster, which was first reported by the Athletic, Washington may be forced to run with small lineups when it resumes its season Sunday in San Antonio. The team missed six games because of a coronavirus outbreak and has not played since Jan. 11.
The Wizards had nine players at practice Friday, and only two were frontcourt players — Lopez and backup forward Anthony Gill, who has not seen significant playing time this season. Starting point guard Russell Westbrook participated in parts of practice but remains day-to-day with a left quadriceps injury.
Washington is so short on big men that 6-3 shooting guard Bradley Beal took turns guarding the 7-foot Lopez on Thursday.
“There were many moments where [Beal] was guarding RoLo,” Brooks said, “and RoLo has all these moves down low, footwork is impeccable, and Bradley’s trying to push him out of his box — it was pretty comical. I was laughing underneath my mask. That’s what we’re going to have to do. . . . We had a good practice today with what we had. But [the guys] understand we’re going to have to mix things up.”
Len averaged 9.7 points and seven rebounds in two seasons at Maryland. He returns to a familiar region after spending the first seven-plus years of his career in Phoenix, Atlanta, Sacramento and Toronto and will reunite with a few familiar faces on the Wizards’ coaching staff.
The center overlapped with assistant coaches Mike Longabardi and Corey Gaines in Phoenix. Assistant coaches David Adkins and Ryan Richman were both in College Park with Len (Adkins worked with the women’s program).
“I was real excited,” Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said during a teleconference Friday. “The Wizards actually reached out to me and told me before, which I thought was really classy on Tommy Sheppard’s part. But really happy for Alex, back home. He’s going to be around David Adkins and Ryan Richman. . . . Hopefully that’s going to give him a comfort level and give him a chance to really help the team. Just to have him home is great. I look forward to — I know covid screws everything up but — just seeing him a little bit more, watching him on TV a little bit more. I’m glad he’s here.”
Emily Giambalvo contributed to this report.