CLEVELAND — Already wrapped up was the Cavaliers’ goal of finishing in the NBA’s bottom three, which carries the consolation prize of a 14 percent chance of winning the draft lottery, same as the other two on the wrong end of the ledger.
That was secured with Friday’s defeat at Golden State that dropped the Cavs (now 19-62) into the netherworld with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks.
So the Cavs’ ninth consecutive loss, a 112-90 setback to the playoff-bound San Antonio Spurs on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena, seemed like the perfect time to say goodbye to Channing Frye.
Frye, 35, a key member of the Cavs’ 2016 championship team, is retiring after Tuesday’s season finale, which is fan appreciation night.
Frye made just his sixth start of the season and opened the game with a 3-pointer. On the bench, the Cavs wore shirts that read “Channing” with his No. 9 on the back.
When Kevin Love checked in at 4:37 in the first quarter, he was wearing Frye’s University of Arizona jersey, which Love tossed to a waiting Frye.
“I bit the bullet today,” said Love, a UCLA product. “It’s one of the guys who taught me to sacrifice, and I sacrificed by wearing an Arizona jersey today. It was a little tough, but we beat Arizona twice, so it’s OK.”
Several videos about Frye played during the game. Finishing with five points, four rebounds and an assist in 16 minutes, Frye departed to a standing ovation with 1:34 left as Love and Tristan Thompson piled on and took him down by the bench.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I deserved it,” Frye said of the ovation. “I think it’s just because everything I tried to play about and be about — winning and being a good teammate.”
Frye said Cleveland is different than the other five cities in which he’s played during his 13-year career.
“I’ve had some of the best and worst times here,” Frye said. “I think when you have such highs and such lows, you create like a love. Like no good relationship is very good if it’s just flat. Mine here is forever.
“For me and the fans, just appreciating them and let me be me. I’m kinda quirky, I’m like a cult classic. I think it inspires me to not only love the game more and in different ways, but also it’s humbling because I don’t average 30 points and I’m not an All-Star. To get love like that, it’s a great reflection on the city and our fans and this organization. It’s gone above and beyond in treating my family and friends at the highest level. I couldn’t be more thankful and appreciative.”
Cavs coach Larry Drew said it wasn’t a hard decision to start Frye.
“We wanted to do something really special for him,” Drew said. “He’s been a trooper all season long. Sitting on the bench and talking to our young guys, cheering our young guys on, being vocal in our locker room. We were happy that we were able to let him go out with kinda a bang.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is most familiar with Frye when he played for the Suns from 2009-14.
“He’s one of those stretch  kind of guys we always talk about that really had an impact,” Popovich said of Frye. “Most of my memories of him were in Phoenix, where he was really a big problem for us. He did such a great job and really cemented that, it’s going to be part of the NBA forever — shooting big guys — and he was great at it. He’s been a great teammate.”
Frye said of that compliment, “To have coach Pop even know who I am and to acknowledge anything I’ve done in my career is amazing. I’ve always wanted to compete at a high level and I just want to win, man. I want to win the right way. I want to do my job and win and have fun. If you can’t smile during it, then you shouldn’t be doing it.”
During the game, Frye became the 36th player in league history to record at least 4,000 rebounds and 1,000 3-pointers. Of 7-footers in NBA history, only Dirk Nowitzki (1,975) has made more career 3s than Frye (1,047). Since 1979-80, Frye’s career 3-point percentage of .388 ranks second among 7-footers behind Karl-Anthony Towns (.392). Among 7-footers with a minimum of 1,500 3-point attempts, Frye stands first, ahead of Nowitzki (.381).
Collin Sexton and Brandon Knight led the Cavs with 16 points each, and Ante Zizic had 14 points and six rebounds. Cedi Osman had 12 points, and Larry Nance Jr. contributed 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Returning after missing the past four games with a sore left shoulder, Love played just 13 minutes, scoring five points with four rebounds and two assists.
LaMarcus Aldridge topped the Spurs with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Davis Bertans had 14 points each. DeRozan notched a game-high nine assists.
The Cavs were without Thompson (rest) and guards Nik Stauskas (lower back contusion) and Matthew Dellavedova (who missed his 16th consecutive contest with a concussion).
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.