Frye Cleared to Play After Year Away From the Game

Ryan Wolf/Suns.com

Wearing the new home white uniforms the team will sport for the first time this season, various Suns players trickled onto the practice court for the team’s annual media day.

After months of wondering, waiting and hoping, Channing Frye – accompanied by Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and General Manager Ryan McDonough – walked out as one of them.

More than a year after ceasing all athletic activity due to an enlarged heart, the sharp-shooting big man’s return to full basketball activity was formally announced, then followed up with heartfelt remarks from each of the trio.

“I’ve said many times that the most significant thing as an organization is the well-being of our players and of their families,” Babby said. “It’s a great joy to make this announcement today and have you here Channing and welcome him back. He’s going to be a great help to us both on and off the court.”

Frye admitted that the road back to basketball was a long one. For more than one calendar year, the former Arizona Wildcat was allowed to do no more than yoga and other similarly calming activities, a radical change from the daily grind and workout of an NBA player.

“It’s been one of the hardest years I’ve ever had to go through just because I couldn’t do anything,” Frye said. “I couldn’t rehab it. I couldn’t go on the court and work on it. It was something I had to just sit, wait and heal.”

Medically, the wait was well worth it. Team cardiologist Tim Byrne told Frye that they were fortunate to discover the issue when they did, and that “there could have been some serious repercussions.”

He leaned on the knowledge of various medical experts as well as other NBA players who had come back from similar heart issues. Boston’s Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, as well as Minnesota big man Ronny Turiaf, were also forced to sit out significant portions of their respective careers due to heart complications.

Frye diverted his attention with other facets of his life. He spent more time with his wife and two children. He earned his college degree. Yet even with all those things in place, he clung to the hope of playing again while it was still a medical possibility.

“I just want to play ball,” he said. “It’s what I’m supposed to do and I never felt like I was done. If at any point I really felt like I was done, I could have just hung it up and been good. I’ve had a great career, but again, like I said, I’m not done.”

It’s an attitude for which the Suns are grateful. While getting into game shape is Frye’s immediate goal, the idea of having his skill set on the team is appealing. The former No. 8 overall pick averaged 10.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in his last full season with the team (2011-12). His career average of 39 percent shooting from three-point range offers better potential for a spread floor, something Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said can greatly benefit in his up-and-down style of play.

“For us, as the coaches, it’s another weapon,” Hornacek said. “He’s a great shoot-around that can help us spread the floor. Once you look around the league, there’s a lot of those spread-floor guys. With us trying to push the ball in the open court, if he’s a trail guy and he’s wide open, you pretty much know that ball’s going in.”

It’s a scenario Frye is only too eager to re-live. On Monday, however, it was more than enough to simply put on the jersey and be able to talk about something he can do, as opposed to what he couldn’t for over a year.

“I’m happy to be a part of this team,” he said. “I’m happy to put this uniform on. I feel like I’m doing it over for the first time.”


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