Frye Must Bounce Back in Game 3
But while the spotlight hasn't been burning small forward Channing Frye as much as it has forward Amar'e Stoudemire or point guard Steve Nash, the fifth-year player is well aware that he's worthy of goat status just like the rest.
On this team and in this system, he's a three-point specialist who stretches the floor and opens up lanes for Nash to work his probing magic. Yet two games in, Frye has played just 20 and 9 minutes, respectively, while hitting just 1 of 13 shots (1 of 9 from three-point range) and forcing coach Alvin Gentry to change the very approach that helped get his team to this point.
Lakers small forward Lamar Odom has had plenty to do with that, as his length has bothered Frye. But the degree to which Frye let it affect his game has been impossible not to notice -- the hesitant shots, the unsure gait, the absence of his scrappy side that so often pesters opposing bigs on defense. Speaking to FanHouse after Saturday's practice, Frye said he's ready to rectify the situation.
"I don't really go out there with a negative attitude," Frye said. "I'm very positive about the whole situation. Hey, it's two games I didn't play very well. It sucks. But hey, it happens."
Frye downplayed the notion that the pressure of the moment affected his psyche.
"Maybe just a little bit, but I was just a little out of rhythm," he said. "For me, it's not so much that we're in the Western Conference Finals or anything like that. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to help this team win so bad. I love everybody on the team so much that I expect greatness out of myself. For me, it's about going out there and having a lot of fun and doing with a lot of energy. When I don't do that, it just becomes a big bag of monkeys on my back. It's stuff that happens. I'm growing. It's not a huge deal."
Frye said he watched video of the first two games "four or five times" in recent days, analyzing his own subpar play in order to help him make the necessary adjustments.
"Most of those shots that I took were in and out, except for maybe four," he said. "They're long. I was just rushing my feet. I didn't have my elbow up, and I just needed to continue shooting and get a little bit more arc on it. I wasn't giving it a chance to get up there."
From Gentry on down, all involved said they expect Frye to return to form in large part because the Suns are at home. They have won four of five home playoff games this postseason and 14 of their final 16 home regular season games. Of course one of the losses came to the Lakers, a 102-96 loss on March 12 in which Frye didn't play because of a one-game suspension for his altercation against Indiana.
The numbers show that Frye has been better at home this season. He averaged 12.3 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting at home this season and was 47.3 percent from three-point range. On the road, Frye averaged 10.1 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting and shot 40.2 percent from three-point range.
"He's going to be fine," Suns guard Jason Richardson said. "We're back home. He knows the rims. He knows the arena. There's going to be a little bit of pressure on him, but Channing always plays great at home so we're not worried about him.
"(What Frye does) is real big (for the Suns), because that gives Steve an opportunity to get to the basket. It opens up the floor for Amar'e down low. It opens it up for everybody when he's hitting shots because you have to stay home with him...You don't want to add pressure on him but we need him to step up big for us in Game 3."
Nash also expects Frye to bounce back.
"We have a lot of confidence in him," he said. "I think he'll do better and feel more confident and comfortable at home. He has been better at home for the most part this year. We expect him to feel good tomorrow."
Yet it remains to be seen whether Gentry will even call Frye's number again, as he clearly can't keep him on the floor if he plays as he has thus far.
"I don't really know (if Gentry will give him enough playing time to redeem himself," Frye said. "It's not my job to really care about how many minutes I get. I just go out and play the best I can. Coach has to do what's best for the team, and certain match-ups work against them, and you know what, it's something that happens. It's not a pride thing, it's a team thing."
Yet unless the Suns are going to become the latest sweep victim in these uninspiring playoffs, Frye's team needs him now more than ever.
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