Channing Frye has not even been a Cleveland Cavalier for two full seasons. He was the return when the franchise traded away the Anderson Varejao, a fan favorite. Even so, you would be hard-pressed to find a player who has endeared themself more to the city of Cleveland.
By his own account, he is one of the luckiest players in the history of the NBA because he ended up on the same team as one of his life-long friends, Richard Jefferson. Their friendship and antics lead to the development of the “Road Trippin’” podcast, a revolutionary new form of sports media and a major part of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Frye is also equally unfortunate. His 2016-17 season was riddled with unimaginable personal hardships and stretches of justifiably poor play. As he described in a Players’ Tribune article:
...some days on the court — to be honest — I just didn’t have it emotionally. There was nothing in my tank. Many mornings, it was hard enough to get out of bed, not to mention to emotionally invest myself in regular-season NBA games.
Because of this, Frye was first speculated to be retiring in the early off-season before putting that rumor to bed himself. Since then, he has been the subject of major trade rumors as a “filler” piece.
When the 2016-17 regular season started, the Cavaliers celebrated their championship once more and supported the Cleveland Indians, who were playing in the World Series. After just one game, Frye learned that his mother had passed, and went to be with family, missing the next two games. In the 10 games that followed, he managed to shoot a blistering 49.2 percent from three with a +6.9 net rating.
Then, on Thanksgiving Day, his father died as well. Frye is away for three games, before returning to the team and playing 18 minutes per game, scoring 8 points per on 42 percent shooting from deep and posting a -5.7 net rating until the end of the 2016 calendar year.
January saw Frye struggle mightily on the court, posting a -11.2 net rating, but begin to heal off of it. On Jan. 7, the Cavaliers traded for Kyle Korver, who sat next to Frye on the airplane and quickly became a friend. 10 days later, the first episode of “Road Trippin’ with RJ and Channing” is suddenly released.
Across the remaining three months of the regular season, Frye’s shooting splits from three were 32.8 percent, 45.8 percent, and 38.7 percent chronologically. His net rating stayed positive each month, highlighted by a +13.5 in February. He also played more minutes, helping to pick up the slack when Kevin Love was sidelined in late February and early March.
When the playoffs came around and the rotation tightened, Frye’s role was limited. He struggled in some areas but managed to shoot 52.6 percent from three in the Eastern Conference Playoffs before becoming a Finals non-factor. This caused him to be viewed as expendable, leading to the retirement and trade rumors.
This upcoming season, Cleveland fans have reason to believe Frye will return to the high level of play seen in the 2015-16 season, especially the 2016 NBA Playoffs, in which he shot 56.5 percent and posted a +14 net rating across 17 games played.
Roster changes may mean that Channing sees a more limited role on the team, which could help him. By his own admission, he struggles to run the floor for stretches without any play stoppage, so keeping him fresher should allow him to maintain performance.
While Frye may be a limited player, he plays an important role on the Cavaliers. Fans should stick with him even if he might not be a factor in the most important series of the season. What he brings to the court may just be less important than what he brings off of it.