When the NBA's free-agent signing period began on July 1st, the Orlando Magic moved quickly to contact veteran big man Channing Frye, reaching him via telephone as he vacationed in Italy. They joined "between 10 to 14" other teams in pursuing the floor-spacing big man, coming off a solid season for the Phoenix Suns, and convinced him to move to Orlando.
"They were the first people to call," Frye said Monday of the Magic. "That means a lot."
So too does the promise of joining an "up-and-coming," to use Frye's words, club with the potential to grow.
"I wanted to go to a team where they were gonna grow over the years," he said, "not do one of these one-year things, one of those one-year-[and]-blow-it-up kind of things."
He had help in making his choice. Magic forward Tobias Harris, a first cousin of Frye's, touted the City Beautiful as a great place to live and raved about the team's coaching staff. His wife, Lauren, thought Orlando would make a great place to live, and Frye joked that she had already bought "a day pass for Disney World."
But ultimately the decision came down to basketball. "They sold me on what they wanted to do for the future," he said of Magic general manager and coach Jacque Vaughn, with whom he met during the free-agent negotiating period. "I'm very excited to be a part of that. And again, their aggression on what they wanted, and the fact that it was me, was like that little cherry on top."
Though by no means old, the 31-year-old Frye joins a young, rebuilding Magic team facing a leadership deficit after cutting ties with Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Ronnie Price, and Jason Maxiell earlier in the summer. Frye said he can see himself taking on an "elder statesman" role with the club, much like the one Grant Hill held when they teamed together in Phoenix. Hill led by example, showing his Suns teammates how "to really be a professional, to win and do winning things, and to be consistent during the year." Frye, by his own admission more a "talker" than a "yeller," can bring that dynamic to Orlando's locker room.
Hennigan said Monday that several of Frye's qualities attracted Orlando to him, but "first and foremost" was his "experience."
"He's been in the league a long time," said Hennigan. "He's someone who, as we did a lot of research on him and got to know him, Channing is someone who takes pride in leading and takes pride in a mentor kind of role. That, in addition to what he can do on the court for us, is very appealing." That research included speaking with Frye's former coaches and teammates, Hennigan said, but also taking a glance at some statistics which illustrate the former Arizona Wildcat's on-court utility.
It's easy to understand Frye's appeal from a hoops standpoint. In 82 starts for the Suns in 2013/14, Frye averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from the floor, helping keep it spread for Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragić, the Suns' electric backcourt duo. "What I do is create space for guys who like to get to the rack," he said. "I think we have a lot of those guys." Frye specifically cited Victor Oladipo and rookie guard Elfrid Payton as two Magic players who fit that description, and he also indicated he's spoken to Harris about how he can help the 21-year-old flourish offensively as well.
"I don't want guys to get double-teamed," said Frye.
And with the 6-foot-11 sharpshooter lurking at the top of the key, few guys in Orlando figure to face double-teams in the seasons ahead.