After a year away from the court, Suns’ Channing Frye beginning to look like the player of old


PHOENIX — Two years ago, he was a focal point of the offense. Two months ago, his status for the season was unknown. Two weeks ago, he was a liability — slowly trying to work his way back after missing the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart.

But that was then, and this is now.

After two of his most impressive halves of basketball on the young season, Phoenix Suns power forward Channing Frye is back.

Back in the sense that questions about his conditioning, his shot, his medical history are becoming fainter and fainter to the point of being mistaken for mere whispers.

Wednesday night’s performance — scored a season-high 25 points in 41 minutes of action — was just the latest evidence that the former Arizona standout is inching closer and closer to becoming the player he was before his year-long hiatus from the court.

That charismatic hometown kid, who with the flick of a wrist ignited an entire fan base on several occasions from 2009-12, is still very much inside of him.

“I think his conditioning is getting better,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You know, when he was running down the court to start the season — I don’t know how to explain it– he was just kind of plodding down the court. Now he’s running a little bit. I still don’t think he’s probably in the best shape of his career, but he’s getting there.

“That’s always the case, when you’re in shape and you’re running up and down the court, if your legs aren’t tired it’s a lot easier to shoot shots. I think that’s what’s happening now when he’s shooting those shots, and he’s making him.”

When Frye began the season as the team’s starting four it made for a rather feel-good story. But that heartwarming tale of redemption quickly took on a rather negative theme, as the seven-year pro looked like a shell of his former self.

Oct. 31 vs. Blazers - Seven points on 3-of-7 shooting

Nov. 1 vs. Jazz – Four points on 2-of-7 shooting

Nov. 5 at Pelicans – Four points on 2-of-6 shooting

Nov. 6 at Spurs – Three points on 1-of-4 shooting

Nov. 8 vs. Nuggets – Seven points on 2-of-10 shooting

Nov. 10 vs. Pelicans – Three points on 1-of-6 hooting

Nov. 13 at Blazers – Two points on 1-of-6 shooting

Nov. 20 vs. Kings – Zero points on 0-of-3 shooting

Yet even as Frye struggled to work his way back into playing shape, Hornacek didn’t sit him. He didn’t reduce him to bench minutes or replace him with Markieff Morris, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Nov. 11.

The way Hornacek saw it, it was only a matter of time.

And while the poor performances continued to mount, Frye admitted that he didn’t get discouraged. Instead, he spent extra time working on becoming more aggressive with assistant coaches Mark West, Kenny Gatison and Irving Roland, even picking their brains on how teams might game plan to defend him.

The work has begun to pay off.

For the first time since April 2011, Frye has strung together four consecutive games of double-digit scoring. And during the Suns’ second-quarter comeback effort in a 120-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night, Frye’s 11 points proved instrumental.

“It’s huge,” Frye said of his conditioning. “I mean today, I was like, ‘Coach I’m not tired.’  I was frustrated with how we were playing [in the first half]. We weren’t running. We weren’t getting stops. So Coach [Hornacek] trusted me and put me back in for the remainder of the first half. I couldn’t have done that about two weeks ago.

“Defensively as well, being physical with LaMarcus [Aldridge] like that. He’s a load down there, so playing him, having to guard Robin [Lopez], then guarding Thomas Robinson, then guarding [Joel] Freeland. You have to be in really good condition. I finally feel like I’m getting my strength. It’s something I have to continue to progress on and keep working on. Mike Elliott has done a great job challenging me and making sure things are working and firing. I’m just out there playing basketball. That’s what every NBA player wants, to go out there and not have to worry about anything.”

No one is more excited that Frye is starting to play freely again than Goran Dragic, who along with the 6-foot-11 forward carried Phoenix’s bench during the team’s magic run to the Western Conference Finals just four years ago.

Wednesday, the duo was at it again, recording 23 of their combined 56 points in the contest’s pivotal second frame.

“It was great [to see him play like he did Wednesday],” Dragic said. “He spreads the floor. He gives us open lanes to drive the ball in. And when they help, he’s always open. He knocks down those shots. That’s something great for us, to have a positional four who can stretch the floor like that.

“He’s really a great player, and I am happy for him that he’s come back. He brings a lot to this team.”

  • SHAZAM

    great article dave…frye guy is BACK :) :) :)

  • SHAZAM

    again nice one dave..i just gave this article a shout out on another site

  • Sunsn7

    Happy for Channing Frye, keep it up and keep improving that D!

  • Ryan L.

    As Channing Goes, as Does The Team.

    Defensively, he is our best big with his ability to guard guys in the post, block shots, and get rebounds. He is actually a really solid rebounder too, even though his stats don’t show it due to the fact that almost all of his rebounds are on the defensive end since he is usually out on the three point line on offense which means he doesn’t get a lot of offensive boards.

    On the other end of the floor, he is really the key to our offense. When he is feeling it from three, it really opens up the entire offense since he is to tall for a guard or small forward to guard out there so teams are forced to move a big, either their four or five out to the perimeter, which mean our guards only have to beat one guy when they penetrate, which means they either have an easy lay up ahead of them, or another defensive player has to rush in from the perimeter, allowing our guard to kick out to open guy for a wide open three point attempt.

    I can’t wait to see what this offense and team looks like once Bledsoe gets back since Bledsoe and Dragic barely got to play any games together due to Dragic getting the crap beat out of him at the start of the season. Also, as this article points out, Channing was still putting everything together conditioning and confidence wise at the start of the season. So, needless to say, we should be a very, very exciting team once Bledsoe is back.

    I still don’t know how I feel about us being a winning basketball team this season, though. Don’t get me wrong, I have really fallen in love with this team. But, I would love even more to have Parker or Wiggins at the three for us next season….A backcourt of Dragic/Bledsoe/Parker or Wiggins would be dominate, especially with the fall of the Lakers and the end of the Big 3 in SA very near. We would be battling it out in the playoffs for years to come against OKC, GS, and the Clippers.

  • Dave Dulberg

    Thanks Shazam. Appreciate the kind words!

  • foreveris2long

    I know I have never seen this Frye before with a low post offensive attack. Him and Kief are starting to make a favorable impression on me with their scoring on the low block. Last night was a beat down.

    I think coach sat Goodwin the 1st half because in the past couple of games he seemed to be playing outside of the offense.

  • http://none Go Phx

    We still will be, Ryan. Future is very bright. As for Channing, I’m so happy for him. You go, boy.

  • BCrayZ

    HAPPY Chanukah Dave!!!!!!!!

    What a nice way to celebrate. Frye (“Chinga”) has needed our love. I started to focus on just that this week. Good to have you join that club.

    Very good point about the strong play of both Frye & Gogi, as the Suns’ sole survivors of “that killer bench unit.” MUST reunite “that killer bench unit.”

    Some Frye facts that would have made this post even more insightful. Last game, his 25 points came on only 12 shots, having made 10 of them. Also, last game he led the starters in (+/-) with a plus 25. Keep in mind that the plus 25 (showing his stamina by playing over 41 minutes – 86% of the game) came vs. a white hot Trail Blazer team. Gogi joined him as a plus 20, with the other 3 starters averaging less than plus 8 each. Frye also held Aldridge to a minus 17. When “Chinga” was on D, he was the team’s leading shot blocker & the leader in combined blocks & steals. He led the team in defensive rebounds for the 3rd time in the last 4 games & is the only player on the team to have led in either blocks or steals in each of the last four & is the only one to have achieved (even vs. the champion Heat) a (+/-) plus in each game.

    Then, on a personal note we have this quoted from Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie”:

    Ball Don’t Lie
    With his family in full health, Channing Frye is celebrating a pretty special Thanksgiving
    Kelly Dwyer By Kelly Dwyer
    November 28, 2013 10:20 AM
    Ball Don’t Lie
    View gallery
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    Channing Frye slaps five during his 25-point night on Wednesday (Getty Images)
    The NBA gives its players the day off on Thanksgiving, a nice break considering the scores of games that the league asks its players to play on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and any number of anniversaries and birthdays. It’s a welcome respite that is best enjoyed by teams that played at home in the game directly preceding the holiday, like the Phoenix Suns – who took down the white hot Portland Trail Blazers in Phoenix on Wednesday, ending Portland’s 11-game winning streak and pulling their record to 8-7 in what has been a surprisingly successful year thus far.

    As a result, Channing Frye’s family will get to host a pretty special Thanksgiving at home this season. Not only is his team free from travel on the holiday, but the Frye family will celebrate the good health of the Suns’ big man after he missed the entire 2012-13 season after being diagnosed with a dilated cardiomyopathy.

    On top of that, as the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reports, the Fryes will also be celebrating the improving health of their daughter Margaux, who is slowly regaining vision after being born last year with cataracts in both eyes. From Coro’s feature:

    The Fryes had parental instincts about Margaux’s vision early but kept in denial for a more plausible reason than blindness. Less than two months into her life, doctors said Margaux had cataracts in both eyes and less than a 20 percent chance of gaining vision.
    “Your world is absolutely rocked,” Channing said.
    Margaux could see only ultra-bright lights, shadows and outlines. A series of five surgeries would need to be performed, one eye at a time.
    The unknown was frightening but they had no idea what the depths of it could be. About three months into the daily angst of Margaux’s situation, the Fryes’ world was shaken again.
    During routine preseason medical testing, Frye’s enlarged heart was discovered. His heart was pumping blood at half of the capacity of the prior year’s test. Any activity would bring the risk of sudden cardiac death. Frye was shocked and frightened all over again, and Lauren was terrified, knowing the history of heart complications in his family.
    Things have improved, however.

    Channing is clearly back on track, starting each of his team’s 15 games while averaging over 10 points, five rebounds and nearly a block in just 27 minutes a night. He’s often on the floor to finish games, a go-to veteran contributor in rookie coach Jeff Hornacek’s mostly youth-fueled attack. The Suns were expected to rank near the bottom of the NBA in wins this season, at least in the Western Conference, and yet Hornacek’s young team has turned into one of the NBA’s most entertaining squads this season.

    And, according to Coro, Margaux’s health has improved significantly, “above and beyond where we ever imagined she’d be” according to Lauren Frye. The youngster can see 20 feet ahead of her, and will soon be fitted with artificial lenses and bifocals to aid in her recovery.

    After a year like 2012-13, Channing Frye isn’t taking these second chances for granted; especially after contributing 25 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in the impressive win over the Trail Blazers. From the Arizona Republic:

    “What an awesome job. Take a look at what a great job I have. How about this? I’m back playing and feeling good. It’s amazing. I’m thankful for every day.”
    Sounds appropriate. Happy Thanksgiving, Frye family.

    - – - -

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