Frye and Lopez Show Promise as Duo
Posted: Dec. 16, 2010
It may only one game, but the Suns may have found their best starting lineup.
After entering last night’s contest struggling offensively and facing the best rebounding team in the league, a starting lineup that included Robin Lopez at center and Channing Frye at power forward outrebounded the Wolves and scored more points than it has in its last seven games.
Plagued with defensive, rebounding and offensive rhythm issues, the Suns decided to add a little size to their front line a few weeks ago when they moved Earl Barron into the starting lineup. With Barron starting, the Suns either outrebounded or tied their opponents in five of their six games with him on the glass.
Before that personnel move, Phoenix only out-rebounded its opponents once in the season’s first 17 games. Building off of that model, Lopez’s return from injury allowed the Suns to replace Barron in the starting lineup, creating a starting unit that could prove to be more effective both offensively and with its rebounding.
“It’s really good because it gives us height,” Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright said. “Robin coming back gives us good size and the two really complement one another. Channing has the outside shooting, while Robin has an inside presence.”
Lopez, who appeared in his first game since November 14, has been sidelined with a sprained left knee. On Wednesday night, the former Stanford star returned to the lineup and posted 12 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes.
“I’m very comfortable playing with him,” Frye said. “He’s a big guy down there so he’s helping out there on the boards and defensively. Once he gets his rhythm, he’s going to really help us on the offensive end and get some easy baskets for us.”
Frye’s comfort was obvious. The former University of Arizona standout nailed a career-high-tying 7-of-12 from downtown, scored 21 points, hauled down a team-high nine rebounds and blocked two shots in the Suns’ win over Minnesota.
“It works out really well because he can pop and shoot the three,” Lopez said. “I can still roll and draw defenders. I think it helps us realize that it’s possible for us to rebound and defend, but I think we have to do a lot more consistently.”
On Wednesday, the Suns out-rebounded the T-Wolves 46-39. Phoenix also shot 51 percent from the floor and 56 percent from behind the arc.
“Last night I thought I had to be aggressive,” Frye said. “Robin did a great job of rolling and sucking in the defense and I think I missed two or three early. But that’s because I was so excited I was open.”
To begin the season, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry started Hedo Turkoglu - who has played 10 seasons as a small forward - at power forward. It allowed Turkoglu to continue his traditional routine of starting, while keeping a lethal second unit intact with Frye as its center.
When Lopez went down, Frye joined Turkoglu in the starting lineup, but the team still struggled on the boards. Now that Lopez is back, Gentry is trying his best two rebounders in the lineup together.
“I think that coach made the right decision early on to start Hedo and give him some confidence,” Frye said. “Having been here last season, he knows he’s able to switch me in from the 5 to the 4 without any bumps in the road.”
Since Lopez is returning to his customary role, it will be Frye that has to make the greatest adjustment in his game.
“For me it’s something I have to work on now that I’m not down there with big ol’ guys,” he said. “Now I’m going back to being a shooter and not doing too much rolling. I just have to get my footwork right and still be capable on the defensive end, especially against quicker guys.”
After capturing their first win in four attempts last night, the Suns will most likely stick with the tandem on this upcoming three-game road trip. The Suns will face the Mavs, Thunder and Spurs before coming home to host Miami on December 23.
“It’s a good combo so we’re going to stay with that during the road trip unless matchups dictate that we play another way,” Cartwright said. “As of right now, I think that’s our best combo.”
The next few games should provide a solid test to determine whether or not he’s right.
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