PHOENIX — As the Phoenix Suns prepared for training camp, a matter regarding their body count loomed. In the past few weeks, Channing Frye seemed ready to say he was back from an enlarged heart diagnosed last September, but the team remained quiet until Monday as it sought a unanimous consensus from doctors at Johns Hopkins, Columbia and beyond.
They got it this weekend, and Frye will be able to return to the court without restrictions. All along, he missed basketball but said that if he’d been asked by his family to quit, he would have. After all, Frye has his degree, which he earned during the 2012-13 season while he watched Phoenix from afar.
“I just felt like I was never done (playing basketball),” Frye said at media day as the team prepared to leave for training camp in Flagstaff. “Even when things didn’t look good, I was determined to kind of approach this like I approach everything else. I think everyone who’s been here since I was in high school knows I wasn’t always the best, I wasn’t always the strongest or the tallest. I just want to play ball.”
Frye said Monday felt like his first day as a Sun all over again. The next step is simply getting himself into shape after spending a full year “trying to stay active without being active,” he said.
Frye won’t be on any medications, and he’ll be a part of the rotation once he’s back into reasonable basketball shape. When that is is anybody’s guess. As of Monday, the forward wasn’t sure where he was in terms of conditioning, but he is completely confident he’s ready to start working out under the attention of the Suns medical staff and team doctors. It’ll just take some time.
“Nobody gets on a treadmill going 20 miles per hour,” Frye said.
It was a fitting statement considering he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy after escalating his heartrate on a treadmill to prepare for league-mandated testing.
As for the roster, general manager Ryan McDonough likes what Frye brings as a stretch 4 or even a center.
“Every plan that we made with the team looked better with him as part of the team,” McDonough said. “It was a bit of a challenge to know what the roster would look like.
“His leadership and professionalism and the fact that he can be a mentor to some of the young guys, that is important to us,” McDonough added of the 30-year-old who is the team’s oldest player.
Who’s going to win training camp?
Phoenix took 18 players to training camp with Frye, Alex Len and Malcolm Lee limited as they recover from their respective health issues. Len just began running in pick-up games this week while Lee is coming off knee and hip surgeries in the last year.
Still, the position battles will be something to behold. McDonough doesn’t have an idea of who’ll end up where, though it would be mighty surprising if Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe aren’t starters in the backcourt.
“Jeff (Hornacek) and I have told guys throughout the summer, and we’re going to tell them again tonight, it’s an open competition,” McDonough said. “Whoever the best guys are, are going to play.”