I'm finally getting around to being able to update today. I couldn't help but notice not one, but TWO articles on Channing Frye in the papers this morning. The first is Joe Freeman's, the second Brian Hendrickson's.
The first, and most appropriate, response is to say, "Nicely done, Mr. Frye!" After the first month of the season (during which he got some grace time for the adjustment) it was hard not to be critical of his play. He wasn't doing many things well out there. That has changed, at least where offense, rebounding, and energy are concerned. He's performing at a much higher level in all three areas now and he's making it easy to appreciate his game. Sometimes folks have astronomically high expectations of players and obsess on their flaws. I think with certain players--the ones who have the potential to be legitimate, team-leading superstars--that's somewhat appropriate. If Michael Jordan had never addressed the youthful flaws in his game he wouldn't have become Michael Jordan. But for most players, most of the time it's better just to ask them to show us why they're in the league. Steve Blake may never be a great off-the-dribble scorer. Neither was Steve Kerr. That's not why they made it. They play in the league because they have certain skills that you know you're going to see on display every night. You know what you're going to get when you acquire them and presumably you picked them up because their skills matched your needs. If a guy is demonstrating why he's an NBA player most every night then we shouldn't have much quarrel with him. If you want something besides what he does well then you need to get a different player, not complain about the one you have. Earlier in the year Channing wasn't looking like an NBA player. Now he's showing us why he is. Fair enough. Well done.
The bigger point, though, may be the fact that he can improve with this team. James Jones as well. This shouldn't be taken for granted. Ever since the Drexler era ended this team has been a place where people get worse, not better. This was even true of the Rasheed teams of the late-90's. We acquired Pippen, Smith, Damon, Derek Anderson, Dale Davis, Shawn Kemp...the list goes on. Their production went down when they came here, not up. For some it was age, but not all of it. We didn't have the kind of team that helped each other, that recognized strengths and how to play to them, that could nurture/facilitate a guy's emergence. No trust, no camaraderie, no vision of the greater goal equals no growth. Obviously this didn't improve any in the Jailblazer era. But now look! How many guys--young and veteran both--are playing better this season than they have the last few? That's no accident. Some of it is more shots, minutes, and spots on the floor being opened up with the changing of the guard, but some of it is the attitude and teamwork as well.
This is another sign that speaks well of the direction the team is headed. It's one of those corners you can't predict turning in advance but once you're around it you can clearly see the difference. The "nicely done" belongs not only to Channing, but to the team as well.