Frye returns to Suns after season away due to enlarged heart

The Canadian Press
9/30/2013 6:23:34 PM
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PHOENIX -- Almost exactly a year after a routine pre-training camp physical uncovered a heart condition that threatened his career, and maybe worse, Channing Frye is back with the Phoenix Suns.

Suns officials say they decided over the weekend that Frye should re-join the team after he was unanimously cleared by several doctors, including some from Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities.

Frye has been inactive, in the literal sense of the word, for a year while treating an enlarged heart apparently caused by a virus. How he got the virus remains a mystery.

"There's no real explanation," he said. "It could be a thousand things -- I drank too much coffee, didn't get enough sleep, too much sleep. It's like my heart had a cold, it had a cold for a year, it went away so now I'm better."

The 6-foot-11 forward has played seven seasons in the NBA, his last three with the Suns. He grew up in Phoenix and starred at the University of Arizona.

At 30, Frye is the oldest player on the Suns' overhauled roster.

"There's a lot of weird feelings going on right now," he said as he stood in his No. 8 uniform Monday and spoke to the gathering at Suns media day. "It's been a long year. It's been one of the hardest years I've ever had to go through just because I couldn't do anything. I couldn't rehab it. I couldn't go out on the court and work on it. It was just something I had to sit and wait and heal."

Asked if he had done any basketball activity, Frye's answer was: very little.

"Just a little dribbling here, a little shooting there," he said, "just a little dribbling here, a little shooting there, but not enough to break a sweat, put it that way."

Now it's up Intestate 17 to Flagstaff and six days of workouts at an elevation of 7,000 feet in the Suns' training camp at Northern Arizona University.

Frye said he will ease into things and knows he is under the watchful eye of the Suns training staff.

"When I go out there I'm going to go as hard as I can," he said. "I'm in a safe environment. If the coaches or trainers see anything and say, 'Let's take a step back,"' that is what he will do.

He said he had talked with other NBA players who had similar conditions and they all said the same thing. Listen to your doctor and follow his advice.

Frye must hardly recognize the Suns from the team he left two seasons ago. New general manager Sean McDonough and new coach Jeff Hornacek have greatly remodeled the roster.

Frye, a career 39 per cent 3-point shooter, would be an important component to what Hornacek wants to do, especially with a lineup that has two point guards -- Goran Dragic and newcomer Eric Bledsoe -- on the floor at the same time.

During Monday's news conference, Hornacek shouted from the back "Can you still shoot?"

"Absolutely," Frye said.

McDonough said every roster plan he developed was better with Frye in it.

"I think he'll play a lot of power forward, maybe even some centre," McDonough said. "The way coach and I would like to play is with the floor spread, and having a power forward that can shoot is a big part of that plan. And as you guys know, Channing is one of the better if not the best shooting big man in the league."

Frye did not downplay the enormity of his condition or what might have happened had it not been detected when it was.

"I think it was very serious," he said. "As professional athletes, we push ourselves every day. There's really no medium to exercise, there's zero and there's a hundred. Every doctor I went to was like, 'Thank God we caught it when we did."'

But he said he never felt his basketball career was over.

"When things didn't look good, I just felt like I wasn't done yet," he said, "and I was determined to approach this like I approach everything else, ever since I was in high school. I wasn't always the best, I wasn't always the strongest or the tallest or the fastest. I just wanted to play ball, that's what I'm supposed to do and I never felt like I was done."

Frye is married with two small children and he said they were always his first consideration.

"If at any point the doctors had said, 'Hey, look, this is not going to work out,' I would have just stopped,' he said, "because they (his family) come before this, come before my career."

Now comes the difficult chore of becoming an NBA player again.

"Yeah, it's difficult, but that's the challenge. That's exciting to me," Frye said. "After not challenging myself for a year, I've got a lot of challenge energy stored up."

Channing Frye (Photo: Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)


(Photo: Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
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