Camp has Different Vibe Without Frye

Head Coach Alvin Gentry knows the team will miss Channing Frye while the forward is sidelined this season.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

As soon as the name was brought up, Goran Dragic’s eyes dropped to the floor and his voice sunk a little lower.

It was almost instantaneously apparent that the Suns’ new point guard, a person who usually carries himself in a very upbeat way, was sad to begin discussing what happened to his friend and teammate, Channing Frye.

Frye, of course, opened up about a week and a half ago about the enlarged heart found by doctors during a routine checkup. The condition has the power forward’s status for this season in doubt, and also has Frye thinking about bigger-picture things like his family and the future of his NBA career.

During the Suns’ Media Day at US Airways Center just prior to the opening of training camp for the 2012-13 season, Dragic and other Suns teammates admitted that the vibe to the start of a new basketball year has been altered by Frye’s absence.

“I mean, I was shocked when I heard the news,” Dragic said. “When I was here two years ago, I was playing with Channing. I know him well, and he has always been a good friend of mine. He’s a great person, and I was really sad to hear about what he’s going through.”

To a man, that sentiment was echoed throughout the Suns’ roster. Veterans like Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and Head Coach Alvin Gentry spoke about their friendship with Frye, their well-wishes for him and the hope that he can return to the game.

They also said that the club’s leading three-point shooter from a season ago will be welcomed around the team in any fashion he wishes. Gentry believed, though, that the most important thing in this scenario is Frye’s long-term health and the relationship he has with his wife, Lauren, and their two small children.

“There are more important things to be thinking about than just basketball right now,” he said. “I’ve talked to his wife and to him. He has two small kids, which is what is important right now. We just wish them all the best.

“He’s a great guy. He’s not a good guy, he’s a great guy.”

At the coach’s house a day before addressing the media on the team’s practice court, Dudley said the entire team got together for a little bonding. He was happy to see Frye in attendance at the team gathering, and thought it was an indication of how his teammate will there for them this season.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Dudley said. “I don’t see him being at every game. I mean, I wouldn’t be if I were him, but he’ll definitely be a voice in the locker room.”

As Brown begins his second year with the squad, he said that Frye’s demeanor with the team hasn’t changed that much at all. The guard may have been expecting to see Frye smiling less or not cracking as many jokes as usual, but he said the opposite was true.

“He never really wears his emotions on his sleeve, which is a good thing because it’s helped make him who he is,” Brown said. “But he’s just a good dude. He always has a joke. He’s always making sure you’re alright. More than anything, he always has a positive spirit about him.”

Center Marcin Gortat seconded Brown’s thought that Frye hadn’t changed a whole lot as he’s dealt with the heart condition. The team’s center had a locker right next to the U of A product a season ago, and when he saw him upon returning to the Valley, the two began joking about the same games for the iPad that they played together in the past.

But what Gortat felt was unfair was that the hard work he knew Frye was putting in to improve upon last season, as well as to rehab from a shoulder injury incurred in the second-to-last game, was now going for naught.

“He told me he was going to work his tail off just to be better this year, and all of a sudden he got that news,” Gortat said. “So it was disappointing, but at the same time I also know that a few months ago he and his wife had their second kid. If there’s a positive in this, it’s that he gets to spend some time with his family.”

Actually, there might be one more positive to find in this scenario: the doctors discovered the heart condition before it was too late

“It’s a tough situation,” Gentry said, “I think you can look at it a couple of ways, but at the end of the day we’re just happy they were able to find it before something disastrous could have happened.”