Frye: "I Have A Lot to Prove"
By John Denton
Sept. 29, 2015
ORLANDO – Already the owner of a solid nine-year NBA career and a lucrative long-term contract, Channing Frye could have easily brushed off last season’s disappointment with the Orlando Magic and stuck to his usual preseason prep.
However, when Frye went back and watched clips from his first year in Orlando, he was deeply bothered by what he saw. It wasn’t that Frye tanked last season on purpose; it was just that he was injured early in camp, never got back fully in shape with his legs and he allowed all of the disappointment of losing to seep into play.
``Last year was, for the lack of a better term, a little embarrassing on all fronts. I think I have a lot to prove and I’m out here to put the work in and do it,’’ Frye said on Media Day just before the Magic opened training camp.
Just in case you think that’s just preseason bluster from a player saying what his coaches and teammates want to hear, Frye reiterated his analysis of last season and his promise to be better on Tuesday following Orlando’s sixth practice.
``I was upset and I was upset most because we only won 25 games,’’ Frye said of the bitter feelings that persisted all offseason. ``I was upset because I know that I am better than that (performance from last season). I just had to really refocus on how I can really be the best me. When I say that, I’m not going to magically become Kevin Durant; I need to be the best me for this team by creating space for (Nikola Vucevic) and Tobias (Harris), hold my own defensively, do what coach asks me to do, run the floor and put the ball on the ground. That’s just a complete game.’’
Frye, 32, has looked and played like a completely different power forward thus far in training camp. Following an offseason that he dubbed, ``probably the hardest that I’ve worked and the longest (stretch) where I have been healthy,’’ he has been able to move better and his perimeter shot has been truer. On offense, Frye has been more active inside the 3-point line, posting up smaller defenders, drilling catch-and-shoot mid-range jumpers and flashing to the rim for the occasional dunk. Defensively – the greatest area of concern last season for Frye – he’s worked harder in the post and he’s been aided by new coach Scott Skiles’ help principles.
Frye got the lowdown on Skiles from some of his former NBA teammates, and close friend Richard Jefferson warned the 7-footer that he had better show up to camp in tip-top shape. Also, Skiles and Frye had some candid conversations about what will be expected this season and it drove the sweet-shooting power forward to work all summer.
``Come to camp in shape, which he did. He’s in great shape,’’ Skiles said of his message to Frye. ``Help us as coaches with the young guys picking up what we’re doing and let them see that you are buying into what we’re doing defensively. He’s been great. He’s in the right spot all the time and he’s shot the ball well. So he’s been really good.’’
In years past, Frye tended to avoid playing a lot of pick-up basketball in the offseason to avoid burnout and to keep his mind fresh. But that changed this past summer following a 2014-15 season that started poorly and never got on track.
Frye, who signed a four-year free-agent deal with the Magic in July of 2014, sprained his knee on the third day of training camp last season. After missing all eight preseason games and the season-opening loss in New Orleans, Frye was inserted into the lineup, but he never found consistent ways to play off of Magic guards Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo. Frye shot a respectable 39.2 percent from 3-point range, but he proved to be far too one dimensional as 71 percent of his shots (346 of 487) were from beyond the arc. In 1,870 minutes, he had only 31 free throws and just 12 baskets from within 5 feet of the rim.
Defensively, Frye was a mess because of his lack of strength and mobility following the training camp injury. His defensive rating (107.4 points per 100 possessions that he was on the floor) was the worst on the team. And because the Magic’s defense was especially bad when he played alongside of center Nikola Vucevic, Frye lost his starting job and fell completely out of the rotation by the final month of the season (just three appearances in April).
Frye knows that if he is going to reverse what he did last season in his first year in Orlando he needs to be more involved offensively and more aggressive defensively.
``Last year I did a lot of standing and I didn’t put the ball on the ground a lot (with the dribble) and I worked on that a lot this summer,’’ Frye said. ``Coach (Skiles), from Day One, showed that he’s going to hold everyone accountable. Number two, it’s not just about you guarding your man. Like he says, you put your hard hat on and you defend the best you can within his principles. It’s not about just you guarding your man; it’s everybody.’’
After taking the Magic head coaching job in late May, Skiles went back and watched a lot of Orlando’s games from last season. He said it was quite glaring the problems defensively that the Magic had while trying to pair Frye and Vucevic together. Still, the coach thinks it can work versus certain bigger lineups.
``I think so, but a lot of times there is a reason that stuff didn’t work,’’ Skiles said of the Frye-Vucevic defensive pairing. ``But they’ve looked good so far in camp. Channing has been impressive. He’s moved around really well. … If there were two big guys – like the real Opening Night against Washington with Nene and (Marcin) Gortat – I don’t think there’s any reason that those guys can’t play together.’’
Irked by what happened last season, Frye took the advice of Strength and Conditioning coach Bill Burgos and got to work early in the summer. He stuck with a new routine that involved lots of basketball work, conditioning and strength sessions and drills to improve his mobility. Frye said that most days involved him playing basketball for two hours in the morning, lifting weights for 90 minutes and then spending the afternoon with his wife and kids. Then, later at night, he’d be back at the gym for another session of basketball drills.
Frye said he can feel a major difference now in his ability to get up and down the floor and the added strength that he has in the post when defending other power forwards. The Magic hope that the encouraging play in training camp will help Frye stay on the floor more – something that should have a positive trickle-down effect on others such as Harris, Oladipo, Payton and Vucevic.
``After hurting my knee I don’t think I realized how important your legs are, which sounds stupid, but it was tough to ever catch up,’’ said Frye, who averaged 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds a game last season. ``Leg strength is something that I worked on a lot. It was basketball in the morning for two hours, rehab for an hour and lift and cardio for another two hours. Then, I’d spend time with my family and then when they go to sleep go and get some more shots up.
``When you turn 32 … when I was watching film from last year I kept thinking I could have done more if I had felt like this,’’ added Frye, referring to his improved conditioning. ``Ne excuses this year. I am going to continue to work hard and come out here and do the best that I can for this team.’’