Heading into the 2013-14 season, the Phoenix Suns more or less looked like an island of misfit toys.
There was the first-year general manager, the first-year head coach, a backcourt composed of two points guards that had never played with one another, a swingman who seemingly bounced from city to city year after year, a journeyman who suddenly became a veteran three years into his well-traveled career and a former first-round pick with 13 games of NBA experience to his name.
While the focus seemed to be solely on the future, one player in particular, Channing Frye, who missed the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart, did his best to shift the narrative to the present.
When asked about the perception that his organization might be tanking in the coming year in order to acquire a high draft pick, Frye was upfront and honest about the topic.
“Nobody wants to be a loser and nobody wants to get smacked,” Frye said four days before the Suns’ season opener. “I was on a team where we won 23 games in a season, and it was absolutely miserable. So nobody comes out like, ‘We don’t care about winning.’ I think teams might buy into that, but I don’t think this is one of those teams that’s going to buy into that.
“Number one, you have too many guys on contract years. And I think you have too many young guys. So us losing, nobody pays losers the amount that they should get paid. Maybe it happens once in awhile, but I’ve always known guys on winning teams getting paid what they should get paid. For us, our aspirations of the playoffs may be a little bit high right now, but we’re going to be competitive and do the best we can.”
Maybe Frye knew something that everyone on the outside couldn’t see, but the Suns through 51 games have been more than competitive, they’ve made the aspiration of making the playoffs a realistic possibility.
Although Phoenix’s roster might not be filled with players bound for this weekend’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, Frye noted that his teammates have been able to foster success on the court through their appreciation for what one another was forced to endure leading up to the current campaign.
“I would definitely say so,” Frye told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Jon Bloom when asked if this was the closest team he’s ever played on. “The biggest thing I would say about our team is that we are very young and very hungry. Everybody on our team has been guys that have had a lot of adversity to get to where we’re getting. You look at some teams and some guys have had a pretty easy road to get to the NBA. They were the best of their high school, the best of their college and then they get drafted high in the NBA.
“Then you look at our team, and we’ve all been through adversity. We all appreciate this opportunity and want to take advantage of it together.”
Although the Suns have already accomplished plenty during their pre-break schedule, Frye as a native of Arizona, understands that it’ll take more than a 30-21 record to gain respect both on a local and national level.
Making the playoffs will help, he said, but so too will beating the giants of the league.
“For me growing up and watching the Suns, I’ve always wanted to be the guy and be a part of a team that was something extremely special,” said Frye. “I had an opportunity to do that in 2010, and I want to bring that back. I understand we have a lot of snowbirds, but I get really pissed when teams like Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Miami come in and they have more jerseys than we do.
“I appreciate our fans, but I tell the guys in the locker room that I want it to be 99 percent Suns fans. I want it to be packed every night and for people to be excited to watch us. The way that we’re playing, we are going to get there. But I feel like we have to earn that. We battled [Tuesday night] against Miami, but for us to get that respect from not only our fans but the NBA, we need to go out there and win those big games not just take these moral victories.”