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The Fight in Channing Frye

by Casey Holdahl

Sitting backwards on a chair in a stuffy gym, Channing Frye makes a telling declaration.

I dont want to be a lottery bust, Frye says. Im going to say that, though people would probably tell me not to.

Frye swears hes never heard his name attached to the phrase, but somehow the notion has made its way into his consciousness. Maybe its a residual effect of playing in the too-quick-to-judge media pressure cooker that is New York City. Maybe its a product of his humble nature. Or maybe its because hes entering the all-important fourth year of his rookie contract, knowing full well theres a real possibility of restricted free agency on the horizon. For a guy who loves Portland and playing for its only team as much as Frye does, a change of location probably isnt the most desirable option.

(Click here to read more about Channing Frye's thoughts on contract year players.)

I wasnt picked eighth for nothing, says Frye, so Ive got to show them what I got.

Pride is just one of the reasons Frye finds himself in a room at the Matt Dishman Community Center in NE Portland. Its an unassuming place for a millionaire professional athlete to spend his offseason, but the type of workout hell be put through here is better experienced in this rough-around-the-edges environment. The practice facility in Tualatin, with its high ceilings, state-of-the-art fitness equipment and luxurious locker room, is a resource any athlete would be lucky to have at their disposal, but its not the kind of place that breeds toughness. For that, Frye goes to the Knott Street Boxing Club.

I know I can be better, said Frye, so thats why Im here.

Knott Street has the look and feel of every boxing gym youve ever seen in the movies. Two rings, dingy white from years of use, sit side by side against the outside wall. Half windows, covered by security fencing, provide enough natural light to make the fluorescents unnecessary during the day. Heavy bags and speed bags hang in what little open space there is around the rings. The air is artificially warm and wet. A corkboard on one of the walls is filled with press clippings from boxers who at one time made Knott Street their training grounds. Posters promoting matches long since past featuring fighters whom no one outside of the hardcore boxing community has ever heard of fill the spaces in between. Its here that Michael Foster, the man who oversees Knott Street, puts Frye through a hellacious workout that focuses more on toughening up the body than touching up a jumper.

(Click here to read more about Channing Frye's definition of toughness.)

It starts with jumping rope. Then jumping rope with ankle weights. Then jumping with a heavier rope and heavier ankle weights. On and on it goes. All the while Parliament Funkadelic plays in the background, providing the rhythm for the workout.

Then come the pushups. Then the medicine ball. Then the pushups with the medicine ball. As the workout goes on, Frye swaps out a sweat-drenched shirt for a dry one, only to have that shirt soaked through minutes later. Hes already into his third shirt by the time he puts the gloves on.

But the actual boxing is probably the least important part of the workout. For Frye, its not about learning how to fight; its about learning how to push through soreness and fatigue while developing the stamina necessary to weather an 82 game season; a season that is fast approaching.

I think (this workout) is humbling, Frye says. Im up there and I feel like Im in good shape. This is probably the best Ive felt in years. And every time I come here it makes you feel like a little baby. Im working muscles I didnt even know I had. If you cant get that type of a workout every time, you shouldnt go. If youre not challenging your mental or your physical, then why work out?

I mean, this sweat isnt for nothing.

It most certainly isnt. In Channings opinion, all of that sweat is buying him something. Its buying a chance to prove that Channing Frye can be a valuable part of the budding would-be dynasty that so many think the Trail Blazers have the opportunity to create.

I love basketball, said Frye. For me this is going to help me with my mental and my physical. Knowing that Im putting in this effort, putting in this work, is definitely going to make me come out with that attitude like, I deserve this. I think last year I was really trying to figure out my place. And this year Im more like, this is what I do, its time to get to work and prove that I deserve my spot.

I felt like there were a lot of things that I did well last year and there were a lot of things I didnt want to see again in my career. So Ive just got to put myself in that situation, be the best.

While Frye is using part of his summer to learn the finer points of one of the more physically demanding sports, hes still spending the majority of his time on the court trying to adjust his skills to better fit in with the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. Frye, who has trimmed down considerably thanks to a rigorous offseason workout schedule and a change of diet, expects to make life easier for his fellow bigs by stretching the range on his already dependable jumper out to the three-point line, assuming a role since vacated by James Jones.

(Click here to read more about Channing Frye's change in diet)

I think what I can do is space the floor, said Frye. We may have a lot of big guys who are great on the block, but theres not that many big guys that can shoot the three and are going to be able to put it down on the ground, be explosive. I want to be one of those guys that are like James Jones: you have to know where he is at all times. I think I can do that, especially being on that weak side, give Greg some help and get down on those big guys and get boards.

Its too early to tell if Frye can become a consistent threat from beyond the arc or if punching a leather bag filled with sand in the offseason can turn a player into a lean, mean rebounding machine, but one thing seems almost certain: The slimmer, trimmer Channing Frye youll see this year will be better than the bulky, reluctant bruiser who struggled to find a role in Portland last season.

Last year I was just really getting used to Portland, says Frye. I was really just trying to lose the weight, figure out what type of player I was going to be. And I think this year, being in Portland, it really helped me discover what Im going to do; what Im going to add to this team.

Im comfortable now here, and I feel like Im taking the chance seriously. We have an opportunity to do something next year, so Im going to give the best I can, not only for myself but for the team.

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