PHOENIX — The big news out of Suns media day on Monday was the team making official what Channing Frye had announced personally the night before: that he has been cleared to play by a multitude of physicians, and will be back on the active roster beginning immediately.
“There’s a lot of weird feelings going on right now,” Frye said. “It’s been a long year. It’s been one of the hardest years I’ve had to go through, 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 something [where] I just had to sit, and wait, and heal.”
Frye missed all of last season with what was diagnosed as an enlarged heart. He was unable to exercise at all while recovering, and just recently started to work his way back into shape. As for basketball activity, there has been very little by Frye’s own admission — dribbling and shooting here and there, but certainly no full-court runs.
But before basketball comes health, and during Frye’s year-long absence, he was forced to deal with something that could have been even more severe had it continued to go unnoticed.
“It was very serious,” he said. “Every doctor I went to was like, ‘thank God we caught it when we did.’ There could have been some serious repercussions.”
Frye gave us a grossly oversimplified medical explanation of what his issue was.
“My heart had a cold for a year, it went away,” he said. “So now I’m better.”
Frye is expected to be a full participant in training camp, with no restrictions. He was emphatic when asked if he needed to be on any medication.
“None. No way. I’m all healthy,” was Frye’s response.
He’ll undergo testing every six months, which he seemed to be much more open to than being consistently medicated. Now that he’s been completely cleared for activity, Frye was adamant that he won’t be tentative once he returns to the court for workouts.
“No, we’ve got too good of a [training staff] for that,” he said. “They’re not going to let me go out on the court if I’m scared, and it’s just not my attitude. I’m a zero or a hundred type of guy. When I go out there I’ll go as hard as I can in a safe environment, and if the trainers or the coaches see anything, [they’ll tell me] to take a step back.”
Frye consulted with fellow NBA players Chris Wilcox, Jeff Green, and Ronny Turiaf for advice, considering they all went through a heart condition which took them away from the game for a period of time. They told Frye to listen to what the doctors tell you, get multiple opinions, and ultimately do what’s best for you and your family.
Frye didn’t have to return to the NBA, obviously. Not only has he amassed more than $28 million in career earnings with two more guaranteed contract years ahead of him, but he reminded us that with his education, he could easily go do something else.
“I could be a teacher if I want to,” Frye said. “I’ve got my degree now.”
But he doesn’t have to pursue other options just yet. When asked about his choice to come back, Frye pointed to the motivation of overcoming his illness, along with a feeling inside that told him he still had something left to give to the game he loves.
“I just felt like I was never done,” Frye said. “Even when things didn’t look good, I just felt like I wasn’t done yet. And I was determined to approach this like I approach everything else.
“I wasn’t always the best, I wasn’t always the strongest or the tallest or the fastest. I just want to play ball, you know? It’s what I’m supposed to do, and I never felt like I was done.”