PHOENIX — Channing Frye hit 26 three-point baskets during his past eight years as a collegiate and pro basketball player.
It only took him three games as a member of the Phoenix Suns to get halfway to that mark after the former Wildcat set a new career high for triples drained in a season during the third quarter of the Suns’ 120-112 victory over Minnesota.
“We knew that going in,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, and the Suns and their staff had to be the only people who knew a three-point assassin was lurking within Frye, the Suns’ leading scorer tonight with 25. “That’s why we tried to work so hard to get him here. We just felt he was a perfect fit for what we wanted to try to do here.
“You can see what a weapon he is for us. He can really stretch the floor, and he does a good job of opening lanes and avenues for Steve to drive.”
It only took him two home games to become the sixth player in franchise history to nail six treys in consecutive games, with Steve Nash himself last doing it in November 2007. The other guys were dead-eye shooters like LB, Dan Majerle, Wesley Person and Jim Jackson, not a starting center who averaged five threes per season during his first four NBA campaigns.
What’s really amazing is that the Suns’ starting center took 10 shots from range to hit his six, and yet Gentry felt he left shots on floor, saying he wouldn’t mind if Channing took 15 shots if he continues to shoot anywhere near that clip.
“It’s hard for a guy to keep firing away,” Gentry said. “It’s an adjustment for him, but he kind of understands what is asked of him. The one thing I try to emphasize to him is we did not bring him here to be a passer.”
You can understand why Frye might be a tentative to start taking more threes than Thunder Dan, the Suns’ assistant coach whom Frye often enjoys success against in pre-game shooting contests.
He has made as many threes in each of his last two games as he did during his entire four-year collegiate career. All of a sudden Frye is Salim Stoudamire (college edition), a no-hesitation gunner who always has the green light from behind the arc.
Frye has been developing this part of his game since arriving in Portland a couple years ago and seeing LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Przybilla atop the depth chart, signaling that he needed to develop on outside game to complement them.
But things never really worked out in Portland as Frye struggled through some injuries and the depth of a Portland roster that just didn’t leave room for him.
And now all of a sudden he’s one of the leading scorers on the Phoenix Suns, scoring at least 20 points in consecutive games after not reaching that mark a single time last season as a Blazer.
“Just the style of play and just the guys that we’re here with,” Frye said, “I think it’s truly a blessing to me because you know I’ve been through different situations. Much respect to those two organizations, but I feel like sometimes you just get in the right place at the right time, and I’m here.”
Although 10 of Frye’s 12 shots came from behind the arc, which could only be the stat line of a center for the Phoenix Suns, on those other two occasions he showed a propensity to take the ball to the hole and finish when opposing bigs came out on him too hard.
In essence, he’s becoming a matchup nightmare for fives everywhere.
“It’s early in the season, so we’ll see how people continue to play me, but I have to be aggressive and establish myself,” Frye said. “I think a lot of teams early were just going to I don’t want to say leave me open but just not play me as the shooter I thought that I was, and now I’m kind of establishing that.”
Added Nash, “They leave him open and he’s making people pay. It’s beautiful to watch him shoot.”
Why would teams make closing out on the man with 20 career three-point field goals a priority when he’s playing with guys by the names of Nash, Richardson, Hill and Stoudemire? Now there’s a reason why, and Frye’s dead eye and unselfishness will make his teammates that much more effective, just as they make him effective by getting him these open looks.
The Suns just want to make sure that when Frye has a shot he doesn’t hesitate, and that’s exactly what he has done the past two games.
“It’s just comfort, and everything they do here is about balance and making sure things are simple,” Frye said. “They simplified everything for me, so I try to shoot the same way every time. I don’t try to rush, I don’t try to do anything, and if I don’t have a shot just give it back to Steve, and he’s going to find a way to get somebody open.”
A balanced offense
For the third straight game, every Suns starter scored in double figures. Grant Hill and Jason Richardson chipped in with 23 apiece behind Frye’s 25, and Amare went for 19 and Nash 14 and 14.
“I just think the way we play there’s going to be shots for everyone,” Gentry said. “Steve just reads the rotations and gets the ball to the right guy.”
Jason Richardson returned from his two-game suspension and fit right in as if he never left. He hit 8-of-14 shots and 4-of-7 threes, including a dagger of a triple with three minutes left to extend the lead to eight after Minnesota had sliced a 17-point lead with 8:43 left down to five.
“We all felt for him having to sit out those two games, so it was great to have him back,” Nash said.
After a pair of heavy-minute games to start the season, Leandro Barbosa only scored six points in 14 minutes. Gentry said in future games he will get more time by playing with J-Rich. Bright Side reported that LB re-injured his wrist during this contest, which would elevate J-Rich’s role that much if this turns out to be serious.
Amare about back
Anare Stoudemire went for 19 and 8 and afterward proclaimed he’s back to feeling like the old Amare. He still lacks some of his usual explosiveness, but you can tell he’s getting there.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel like I’m there. There’s not much more for me as far as timing and quickness to gain.”
And don’t forget about Hill
It’s easy to overlook the wonder that is Grant Hill, but the Suns’ 37-year-old small forward once again played a great game in this one, going for 23 points and a team-high 10 boards, including 16 and 7 in the first half.
Hill is quietly the Suns’ leading scorer and rebounder, and like Frye he’s looking like some kind of bargain.
“It’s a real simple thing, I mean that’s just who he is,” Gentry said. “He’s going to play hard every night, he’s going to give you everything that he’s got, and I think he’s probably health-wise probably in the best health he’s been in in a long time. I think it’s great, but it’s just not surprising.”
Best in the West
The Suns and Nuggets are the only remaining undefeated teams in the Western Conference. Miami, Orlando and Boston — Phoenix’s next three opponents — are undefeated in the East.
Aside from the 2-1 Lakers, the rest of the Pacific Division is 0-9.
Still a basketball town
Gentry appeared to take a bit of a jab at the local football team, which lost to the Carolina Panthers in embarrassing fashion today, by starting his postgame presser by saying, “Well, I guess the town is not completely red, is it?”
I could not agree more, Phoenix is and always will be the Valley of the Suns.