Channing Frye has seen plenty of ups and down in a season split between the struggling Orlando Magic and the title-chasing Cleveland Cavaliers, but the smooth-shooting big man is just four wins away from capping the year in the best possible way.
Frye joined the Cavaliers back at the trade deadline in February, after averaging just 5.2 points per game in his half-season in Orlando. Cleveland, sitting on top of the Eastern Conference, saw Frye as the extra floor-spacing forward needed for their pursuit of back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals.
After a series-clinching 113-87 win over the Toronto Raptors, that is exactly where the Cavaliers now find themselves – and Frye is just grateful for the chance that fell into his lap.
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“It has been awesome,” explained Frye, who battled first half foul trouble in game six and finished with six points. “The guys here are the best. I’ve got an opportunity to help the team do something special and I just want to earn my keep. I’m just cherishing every moment.
“I knew I was going somewhere [at the trade deadline] but the opportunity to come here is very special. All credit to Griff [Cavaliers GM David Griffin] and the guys.”
Frye, coming off the bench as part of a potent Cleveland second unit, put up nine points per game (shooting a whopping 58% from downtown) in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Raptors, carrying the load at times when Kevin Love’s shot wasn’t falling.
And he wasn’t shy about speaking his mind when Cleveland’s defensive effort waned in the first two games in Toronto. “We’ve got to look at the film and do better,” he said after game four. “That’s some bulls**t.” Frye and his team-mates responded by holding the Raptors to just 78 points in game five, and Toronto head coach Dwane Casey singled out Frye's ability to space the floor after game six.
Cleveland’s defensive effort is sure to be tested in the Finals, with both the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder possessing far more offensive firepower than the Cavaliers have faced so far in this season’s playoffs.
Whether that means a bigger role for Frye remains to be seen, but in the meantime the 33-year-old can soak up all the excitement that comes hand-in-hand with a trip to the Finals. After all, a season that looked to be heading towards the lottery in Orlando is ending with a shot at winning his first ring.