After missing the entire 2012-13 season following a preseason physical that revealed an enlarged heart, Channing Frye recently announced that multiple doctors had cleared him to resume playing professional basketball. No longer was the virus-sparked dilated cardiomyopathy standing between the 30-year-old big man and an NBA court; instead, the last obstacle remaining was the Phoenix Suns, who had employed Frye for three years prior to his depressing diagnosis, and whose vaunted medical staff would also have to sign off on his return before he could get back to work.
On Sunday, Frye let the cat out of the bag on Twitter — he's been given the green light to get back to wearing orange an awful lot:
That reply came in concert with a since-deleted tweet that, according to ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin, read: “Who has two thumbs and is gonna play this year…THIS Guy." After taking that missive down, Frye followed up with a bit of clarification:
let me rephrase that. I'll be back next year playing for the Phx suns. I'm happy to be healthy and have a opportunity to keeping playing!— Channing Frye (@Channing_Frye) September 29, 2013
"Tomorrow," of course, meant the Suns' Monday Media Day session, where the team made its first official acknowledgement that Frye had been cleared to return to work, and where Frye offered this message to the fans who supported him throughout an incredibly trying year:
He offered somewhat more expansive comments on the clearance and impending return to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:
Frye had received clearance to resume basketball work earlier this summer by doctors he sought at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore but had been waiting for the Suns to get further assurances from other doctors. The Suns entered the weekend hopeful of a positive outcome but the apparent final word did not come until Sunday.
“It’s been a long journey getting healthy but I did it through the support of my friends and family and with my will to not give up,” Frye said on Sunday. “I’m very excited to be a part of this new young Suns team. I take pride in this uniform and can’t wait to run out of the tunnel to the fans that have been supportive throughout this whole process.”
As Kelly Dwyer noted when Frye first spoke about his prospective comeback earlier this month, that tunnel run might not come for a bit, considering Frye's been mostly "limited to practicing yoga, playing with his children, and golfing" since last fall; it'll take him a while, one would suspect, to get his rhythm and timing back, and to get into the sort of game shape that would enable him to be a valuable contributor to a Suns team that, if new head coach Jeff Hornacek has his way, will look to push the pace and let guards Eric Bledsoe and Gordan Dragic run wild on opponents.
Plus, as Dwyer and others have written, there's not exactly a ton of incentive for a Phoenix team that once again figures to rank among the league's worst squads to rush Frye back. With a raft of 2014 and 2015 draft picks coming that project as the most valuable collection of selections in the league, the Suns are very clearly playing for the future rather than the present; they don't necessarily need to race to reintroduce Frye to the fold.
On top of that, under new general manager Ryan McDonough, Phoenix has made multiple moves away from (comparatively) higher-priced veterans of late, and while Frye is neither as expensive ($6.4 million this year) as Caron Butler ($8 million) nor an unstable locker-room presence like Michael Beasley, he's still, at best, a nice complementary stretch four whose talents would seem to fit better on a competitive team in search of additional offensive balance than on a rebuilding project, and whose veteran leadership and good-guy credentials might not be worth a $6.8 million player option for next season to this particular version of the Suns. In that vein, it wouldn't be surprising to see McDonough explore moving Frye before the Feb. 20, 2014, trade deadline, if the sweet-shooting veteran could return a future pick and perhaps some short-term savings.
We can speculate on stuff like that in the future, though, and talk about the fallout when the time comes. For now, a player almost universally lauded as one of the league's good guys has bounced back from a bad break and is once again free to ply his trade in the Valley of the Sun. This Suns season might include plenty of bad beats, but at least it started off with some legitimately great news. Welcome back, Channing.