Frye shines in outdoor game, but Suns lose


The first rule of preseason games is don’t take much stock in preseason games.

The final outcome of Saturday’s outdoor game at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for example, a 104-101 Warriors win, is not something I put any stock into being that a group of core Golden State players beat a group of Suns scrubs down the stretch after Phoenix’s starters dominated the opening and much of the time they were in.

If this game happens in November, the Warriors would be going up against Nash and Amare at the end, not Dickau and Taylor Griffin, and I have a feeling the outcome would be a different story.

However, one thing that I think you can see in preseason is how well new players will fit into your system, and on that count Channing Frye made a hell of an impression in this game from the tip.

Frye scored the Suns’ first six points on back-to-back triples and then added a few long twos later in the half. For the game he hit team highs in points (19) and boards (eight) while recording a plus-minus of plus 16. Most importantly he started to prove that all this talk about him being a floor-spacing jump shooter at the center spot is more than just talk.

Frye frequently found himself open from the perimeter against Golden State bigs who didn’t want to go out and defend him. He did not hesitate before drilling a shot time and time again. Once he even showed a bit of agility by pulling up off the dribble, and how many starting centers have that in their repertoire?

His eight boards were key, too, helping the Suns stay about even in the rebounding department (54-51 GS), and if he provides this kind of output every night I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing the Big Showoff.

On the flip side in the plus-minus department was rookie forward Earl Clark, as the Suns lost 19 points in his 25 minutes on the floor. Clark missed at least his first seven shots and wound up 4-for-16 from the floor, missing jump shot after jump shot. Clark even had a chance to tie things up with a three ball in the final minute that clanked off the rim.

You’ve got to admire the way the rookie never got discouraged when his shots weren’t falling. He just kept jacking them up and even was the go-to guy on offense for a stretch of the fourth quarter with the scrubs lineup in. Inconsistent offense is likely something the Suns will have to live with from Clark throughout the season, but that could be OK if he rebounds (six on Saturday) and locks people up on D.

Lou Amundson also stood out to me. With Robin Lopez shelved, his importance to this basketball team is certainly magnified. This really could be his time to prove he deserves to be a bonafide NBA rotation player and not just a hustle guy.

Still, his hustle game was in full effect on Saturday night, particularly on the offensive boards (where he grabbed five of his seven rebounds in 18 minutes). He also blocked four shots, always looking to be that help guy, and even stepped out to hit a short jumper, a skill he did not possess last season.

As long as we’re talking about hustle, it would be wrong not to point out Jared Dudley’s play of the game. On a loose ball in the first half, Dudley dove on the floor to get the rock before dishing to J-Rich for a windmill slam.

Dudley wasn’t even the closest player to the ball, but he made the play because of his willingness to sacrifice his body. That’s just one of those winning plays that Dudley will make for you on the floor.

Not that you would exactly want Amare throwing his body around during the preseason, but later in the game he had a chance to dive on the floor to get the ball but passed. The Suns still managed to maintain possession, but it was one of those things where I was thinking, “If that’s Dudley, he’s on the floor right now getting the basketball.”

As for the concept of the outdoor game, I really like it. The Suns’ preseason isn’t boring like everybody else’s because they’ve got an outdoor game, a Mexico game and a Canada game.

The Suns only shot 40 percent and the Warriors not much better, which has to largely be attributed to the conditions being that these teams are so proficient shooting the ball and deficient defensively, but with the weather a bit better this game was nothing like last year’s clunkfest between the Suns and Nuggets.

Most people around the country play basketball outdoors — and not with soft NBA rims, I might add — so it’s kind of fun to see the pros do that as well.

However, from watching it at home this game looked and sounded like any regular Suns home game. The Suns brought all of their in-game stuff, and except when TNT gave us a shot of the whole stadium, you would never know it was an outdoor game.

Speaking of TNT, Reggie Miller was a bit excessive bashing on the playoff baseball game in Colorado being postponed. According to a National Weather Service meteorologist, it was 17 degrees today in Denver. I’d like to see Reggie play in that kind of weather.

And switching gears with one final note from Friday night, it was kind of an odd sight seeing Robert Sarver at center court of US Airways Center holding up a championship trophy and being lauded for his work as majority owner of his world champion basketball team.

For a second I thought I was in some sort of Seinfeldian bizarro world, and then I remembered I was at a Phoenix Mercury game.