CLEVELAND: Part of the reason Channing Frye is so excited to join the Cavaliers is because it assures him another shot at the playoffs. Frye has made the postseason just twice in his first 10 years in the league, and his last trip six years ago ended in heartbreak.
Frye’s Phoenix Suns lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals in six games in 2010. Frye missed 18 consecutive shots between Games 1 and 4 of that series. He rebounded to post double-doubles in Games 5 and 6, but the Suns lost Game 5 at the buzzer when the defense forced Kobe Bryant into an airball off an inbounds pass, only to let Ron Artest catch it and lay it in for a 105-103 win and a 3-2 series lead. The Lakers closed out the series two nights later in Phoenix, but Frye still talks about that Game 5 whenever he sees former Suns teammates Steve Nash or Grant Hill.
“We talk about that [darn] airball and how Ron Artest caught that thing even though Kobe was out of bounds [when he shot it],” Frye told the Beacon Journal. “I’ve been trying to get back there ever since.”
Now he might finally get that chance.
Frye scored two points in nine minutes during Monday’s 96-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons. It served as his debut game with the Cavs after the team needed the weekend to clear him physically and activate him following last week’s trade with the Orlando Magic.
Frye missed the 2012-13 season with the Suns because of an enlarged heart and teams have treaded carefully with him ever since. He said the Magic had a similar, extensive exam of his health before signing him to a four-year deal in free agency two years ago. It’s just that no one noticed because it occurred over the summer when it’s common for days, even weeks, to pass between the time a free agent agrees on a contract and actually signs it.
“It wasn’t anything crazy, not like freaking 50,000 tests,” Frye said. “It’s more just information being passed between super elite doctors and super elite hospitals.”
Since his heart condition, Frye has indeed been under the care of some of the best medical institutions in the country. He was cleared by doctors at both Johns Hopkins and Columbia before he was able to return and the Cleveland Clinic signed off on his health before the Cavs cleared him to play Monday.
Now three years removed, Frye says the heart condition was both the best and worst thing to happen to him professionally.
“It made me appreciate every moment I get to play,” he said. “Made me just maybe a little more aware about health issues and how quickly something can be taken away from me. It made me just enjoy the game more, just to treat it like a game and not worry about the outside influences and just focus on the team and focus on myself.”
Frye has yet to practice with his new teammates. Since they took Tuesday off following back-to-back games, his first real on-court work will be Wednesday morning’s walkthrough prior to the game against the Charlotte Hornets. Frye has maintained he’s more concerned with learning the defensive principles than the offense. He simplified his offensive role to simply setting good screens, getting open and making 3-pointers.
He is a career 39 percent shooter from 3-point range, but a 35 percent shooter from deep in the playoffs. He shot 1-of-14 on 3-pointers in the first three games of that conference finals series against the Lakers before heating up in the last three games. And every time he sees Bryant, he is reminded of how it ended. That means he’ll get one more reminder next month when the Cavs play at the Lakers.
“Every time I see Kobe it comes back,” Frye said. “It’s part of the game. They ended up winning it all that year, so at least they won. That makes it a little easier.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ.