Channing Frye, Mr. Clutch. If you saw that coming this year, congratulations (and I want to see the proof). Last year we witnessed Channing turn into a very good three-point shooter; we saw him improve his defense and rebounding; we even saw a few signs of a post game.
But what Channing has done this season, and especially over the last few weeks, has completely changed his reputation around the league. He's gone from a guy you wouldn't want near the ball in late-game situations to the Suns best clutch shooter. He's the guy who won two road games with last-second shots.
It all came together in Tuesday's triple overtime thriller against the Lakers. As is often the case, reputations aren't solidified until they happen in front of a national audience.
Channing credits a new mental approach this season to his ability to make these big shots. He's a guy who Suns coach Alvin Gentry described as highly competitive but also very sensitive. For Channing that often manifested itself as an inability to relax and handle the pressure.
What Frye says he's learned this season is something all the great clutch performers have, no fear of failure. Some guys, like Vince Carter, are born with enough talent and have so much success at an early age that the confidence becomes ingrained in their being.
For Channing, at age 27, it's come as a result of having his first child. This newfound perspective on life has given him an understanding of the big picture.
"It's just a game," he explained. "If I miss the free throw we go home and play tomorrow. If I make the free throw we still go home and play tomorrow."
That allowed Channing to step to the line Tuesday's night in LA and calmly knock down all three shots to tie the game at the end of regulation. He admitted a slight case of nerves on the first shot, but Ron Artest trying to psych him out with a "dap" before the second actually calmed him even further. The next two were money.
- Channing is a religious guy who recited a quick prayer before taking those free throws. Unlike many people, however, he didn't ask for divine intervention. He simply thanked God for the opportunity to help his team.
- Frye was getting double-and-triple teamed in the post by the Lakers, yet another sign of his development. He laughed about it, saying they hadn't exactly worked on that situation in practice.
- On Thursday Grant Hill's Duke Blue Devils face Frye's Arizona Wildcats in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The bet between the two is pretty straight forward. The loser wears the jersey of the winner's school along with another piece of apparel chosen by the winner. The loser has to wear the gear until the winner's team plays their next game in the Elite 8.