No team, it seems, wound up commanding more charmed respect and adoration than the Phoenix Suns, the sweet basketball babies who stubbornly refused to adhere the tea leaves of tank.
Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Mason Plumlee: These guys might have been the front-and-center poster children of Phoenix’s unexpected renaissance.
But Channing Frye? You know, when he's not moonlighting as the member of Parliament for Newcastle-Upon-Tyne? (His name sounds super British, you see.) He's been on the Suns since the Steve Nash-Amar'e Stoudemire days.
Which is why, per Paul Coro of AZSportsCentral.com, he’s now looking to make a permanent home in his native Phoenix by signing a multi-year extension with his long-time team:
I want to talk to the Suns and make sure we're both on the same page about what I want. I'd love to stay here. It's up to them and their future and what they want to do. I love wearing this uniform. I think I take a little more pride in it than everyone else because I'm from here.
Frye, who played his college ball at the University of Arizona, is coming off a steady (if unspectacular) season in which he averaged 11.2 points and 5.1 rebounds on 43 percent shooting, including 37 percent from deep—all at or around his career averages.
Even more important is the obstacle he had to scale just to be able to wear an NBA uniform again: After being diagnosed with a rare heart ailment, Frye sat out the entire 2012-13 season, only to come back and become a key cog in one of the NBA’s most exciting teams.
Prior to the start of the season, NBA.com’s Greg Esposito wrote a poignant piece detailing Frye’s perilous journey:
Part of that is because the hiatus was a blessing in disguise. It gave him time to attend to family issues, including his daughter being born blind and the procedure it took to give her sight. It also afforded him the opportunity to spend quality time with his children, something that most professional athletes don’t get to do due to their team commitments. That doesn’t mean he didn’t struggle throughout the process.
For the last few months he had to endure constantly being asked questions about the future of his career. Questions that had to be both frustrating and depressing all at the same time thanks to the unknown.
Pretty heavy stuff, right?
It must be emphasized that Frye didn’t explicitly state wanting a bigger or more lucrative contract in terms of single-season salary, merely an extension. Which, if it’s close to what he’s been making since he signed with Phoenix as a free agent ahead of the 2009-10 season, is probably fair.
Why? Take a look at Channing’s averages for his last two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers:
|2009-10 (new contract)||PHX||11.2||4.5||15.0|
Now, Phoenix was most certainly banking on a steady dose of upside—a dose they’ve pretty much received, relative to the value of the contract. Meaning, so long as Frye continues to produce like he has over the past four seasons, something in the four-year, $24 million neighborhood would seem pretty reasonable.
Whether or not the Suns want to go that route—loaded as they are with youth and three first-round picks in this year’s draft—is a different question.
Whatever the Suns decide to offer (or not offer), the decision certainly won’t be made based on Frye’s recent medical history alone.
Should they decide to retain Frye long-term—as both a veteran mentor and a floor-spacing offensive threat—they’ll not only be getting a solid role player at an affordable price; they’ll have exercised an act of heartfelt loyalty increasingly rare in today’s too-cynical sports world.