Channing Frye faces tough road but should be thankful virus was caught now

Posted by on September 23rd, 10:53 am

This week is a sad week for Channing Frye, but in some ways it should be a happy one.

It’s beyond terrible that Frye was blindsided with news that he has an enlarged heart that will likely keep him out for the season and could potentially end his career, news that Frye said came “completely out of left field, in the stands left field.”

This was caught so early he had no symptoms or any inability to perform all of the physical duties asked of NBA players.

Really this should be seen as a blessing, as this was caught on a treadmill before training camp rather than at the tail end of a brutal two-a-day at training camp or in the fourth quarter of an early season game.

“We’re very, very fortunate we had the information we needed before it became catastrophic,” Suns PBO Lon Babby told reporters at Friday’s press conference.

Frye’s diagnosis should be chalked up as a major win for the league’s rigorous preseason testing program, and it’s a cautionary tale for people everywhere to undergo regular physicals because you never know what ailment might be lurking in your future, even if you’re a 29-year-old in perfect shape like Frye.

The Suns’ big man already started looking on the bright side by acknowledging that now he will have more time to spend with his young family during the middle of the season and that “this is my reality and I have to deal with it and be positive.”

Without Frye, many of the questions about the Suns’ big man glut disappear as the team is now one injury away from being thin in the frontcourt.

Jermaine O’Neal will now have a more important role as the primary backup center, a role Luis Scola can also play in a pinch. Scola and Markieff Morris will now be free to split the power forward minutes without any challenge from Frye, and Michael Beasley could see more action at the four as situations dictate.

“We’re somewhat disadvantaged and weaknened by not having him,” Babby said. “We planned for [Frye potentially missing the beginning of the season with his shoulder issue], we certainly didn’t plan for this. I don’t think we will do anything dramatic at this point.”

In the big picture that hardly matters. The Suns will find a way to fill Frye’s playing time void. Instead this weekend should be about wishing Frye well and being thankful this virus was caught when it was.

Why Suns are OK with Gentry’s lame duck status

Earlier this week, Mike Schmitz explained why Alvin Gentry deserves a contract extension.

Back in May, Babby explained why he sees no problem with employing a coach in the final year of his contract:

“My view is if a person has a three-year contract you assess it after three years. That’s how I’m going to be judged. I’ve talked to Alvin about it. He’s perfectly fine with that, and you know there are a lot of very successful coaches in the league right now coaching in the final year of their contracts, so this notion that somehow you always have to be one year ahead, I don’t think it’s in his best interests, I don’t think it’s in our best interests, and it has absolutely nothing to do with an assessment of his coaching ability or his performance, and he understands that.”

Gentry would be a very convenient scapegoat — albeit an unfair one — if the Suns were to seriously falter this season.

There are risks on both sides by allowing Gentry’s contract to expire at the end of this upcoming season, as a superlative effort from him could lead to another team offering him more money in a potentially better situation.

Since he has coached in Phoenix since 2004 during which time his young boys have grown up, I assume Gentry would prefer to stay in the Valley, and unless the team needs a scapegoat at season’s end I see no reason why they wouldn’t eventually bring him back.

Perhaps it is a bit ridiculous that coaches always need to be extended before their final contract year, but at the same time in a transition year like this choosing not to extend Gentry does not exactly send the message that the Suns want him as their coach for the long haul.

Gortat leads Poland to EuroBasket qualification

My apologies for the late nature of this note, but we were supposed to have a guest writer from Poland supply this weeks ago.

Still, Marcin Gortat did look awfully impressive in helping Poland qualify for EuroBasket 2013 by virtue of finishing atop Group E with a 6-2 record. EuroBasket 2013 will be held Aug. 4-22 in Slovenia.

Gortat ranked fourth among the 328 competing players in scoring by averaging 21.1 points per game (not a single basket of which was created by Steve Nash, I should point out), and he finished in the top 10 in a wide variety of categories, including rebounding (second, 11.6), field-goal percentage (second, 62.3 percent), defensive rebounds (first, 9.6), double-doubles (first, six), blocks (second, 2.3) and two-pointers made (first, 8.3).

In short, Gortat dominated the qualifying tournament that lacked the top European teams competing in the Olympics but still showed how well The Polish Hammer can play as “The Man” on a team albeit against relatively weak competition.

Dragon’s beach workout: Part 4

Check out Part 4 of Goran Dragic’s brutal beach workout below, courtesy of The Noc.

And 1

Because the Suns are under the cap, they will not be eligible for a disabled player exception for Frye, per Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ. They do, of course, have around $7 mil in cap space remaining if they end up desiring a replacement for Channing.

If Frye ends up retiring due to this ailment, the Suns will receive cap relief in future seasons, as Coon explains in his FAQ:

There is one exception whereby a player can continue to receive his salary, but the salary is excluded from team salary. This is when a player suffers a career-ending injury or illness. The team must waive the player, and can apply for this salary exclusion on the one-year anniversary of the last game in which the player played. Only the player’s team at the time the injury or illness was discovered (or reasonably should have been discovered) can apply for this salary exclusion.

The determination as to whether an injury or illness is career ending is made by a physician jointly selected by the league and players association. The determination is based on whether the injury or illness will prevent the player from playing for the remainder of his career, or if it is severe enough that continuing to play constitutes a medically unacceptable risk.

The player’s salary can be removed on “the one-year anniversary of his last game in the previous season,” so if Frye ends up retiring after the season the Suns can receive cap relief from the remaining two years and $13.2 million on his contract that includes a 2014-15 team option year.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Alvin Gentry · Channing Frye · Goran Dragic · Marcin Gortat · Phoenix Suns

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tony // Sep 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Michael,

    how can anyone put the primary blame on Gentry if and when the team does poorly this season? Forget just a minute about the lack of quality starting talent on this Suns roster or the lack of franchise player, this Suns team has no cohesion or chemistry that comes naturally from playing together for an extended time. If nothing else, the last two NBA seasons, the Suns showed us how much team chemistry can make up for a lack of talent.

    Alvin Gentry has done a great job since becoming the Suns head coach and putting up with a pathetic front office that consistently reduced the talent level he had to coach. Moreover, the constant roster turnover also has made it more difficult for the Suns entire coaching staff. I’m not suggesting that Gentry is a great coach, because he’s not, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done a great job coaching considering the totality of the circumstances he’s had to deal with as a Suns head coach.

    So Michael, I just hope that you and others in the local media put the blame where it’s truly deserved and not sit idly when the time comes for Sarver and Babby to blame Gentry, as they most assuredly will, when in fact they are the responsible parties.

  • 2 Michael Schwartz // Sep 23, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    @Tony Uh oh, we agree again. In general I am of the opinion that a coach is only so good as his players. Sure, Phil Jackson was an elite manager of high profile egos and coaches like Popovich and Sloan are a cut above most others, but in general if you have pretty good players you will look like a pretty good coach. So yes, if Gentry is the fall guy I will agree that that is unfair. At the same time, unless you are Sloan or Popovich coaches seem to be relatively fungible in the NBA. They are hired only to be a fall guy later, and then often coaches that took the fall in one situation keep getting hired. So I guess if the Suns suck this year and Gentry is fired for it I will agree that he would be unfairly blamed. I feel like Gentry is an elite people person, not to mention all the experience he has gained over the years.

  • 3 Scott // Sep 24, 2012 at 1:43 am

    I would be surprised if Gentry takes a hit for the team’s performance this year. More likely if there are repercussions, they will be directed at Blanks.

    As for Sarver, from what I have heard the only player from this year that he pushed to get was Scola. Beasley, Johnson, Brown, Telfair, and Tucker … these were all Blanks’ picks.

  • 4 Michael Schwartz // Sep 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Well, and Dragic was a Sarver pick.

  • 5 Ty-Sun // Sep 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

    It’s always best to have an illness diagnosed early on. I have few doubts that Frye will make a full recovery and play again in the NBA. Only the time table for that recovery is in doubt.

    Gentry is a good, solid coach and I hope he stays with the Suns. But coaches are often scapegoats for incompetent FOs or owners. Gentry’s done a great job with the talent he’s been given in Phoenix so far. This year will be his biggest challenge so far though because this year’s team is almost all new. If it fails badly, Gentry could – rightfully or wrongfully – catch the blame.

  • 6 Scott // Sep 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    @Michael -

    Heh, I was just re-reading my post and I thought, “Oh wait … what about Dragic?” – and then I see your reply. :)

    Frankly, I like Sarver’s picks better than those of Blanks. Both Dragic and Scola are high IQ players who have the ability to make those around them better.

    I realize that Blanks might have felt he was dumpster-diving to try to get young talent for the Suns, but my preference in picking players is to take all high IQ guys with defensive abilities and a high motor. If they have that, the team should do well, as offense is the easiest basketball skill to learn, and athleticism on offense is really just a plus, secondary to craftiness.

  • 7 Tony // Sep 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    @Scott,

    I suppose you liked the additions of Hedo, Childress, and Warrick then right? I mean if you like Sarver’s picks, then you must like those moves as well too.

    Where do you get this idea that offense is the easiest basketball skill to learn? You couldn’t be more wrong. Defensive skill is the “easiest” to improve, not offensive ability.

    And only you, and a few other clowns, would blame Blanks rather than Sarver if and when the Suns fail to make the playoffs or even finish .500. As a responsible owner, you don’t hire inexperienced people with no proven track record to critically important positions, such as GM or Team President. By going against a prudent strategy, Sarver set himself up as the guy to blame when the team fails again.

  • 8 Scott // Sep 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I was going to leave this comment on the newer article, but apparently comments hasn’t been turned on …?

    Anyway, here’s a quote from Clyde Drexler on the Suns this season:

    “Are you kidding me? If they don’t get the fourth or fifth playoff spot, I’m not standing before you. They’re big. They’re athletic. They know how to play.”

    Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/heatindex/articles/20120924glides-faith-lies-phoenix-suns.html#ixzz27WFNoRXC

  • 9 Michael Schwartz // Sep 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Got them turned on now, sorry about that.

    And wow! Was he standing in the sun too long when he said that?!?

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