In one of the more inconsequential moves of this summer’s free agency, Channing Frye returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers on a one-year, $2.4 million contract.
Frye spent the last three years with the Cavaliers before being traded at the deadline to the Los Angeles Lakers, along with Isaiah Thomas and a draft pick that became Moritz Wagner, in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
Some believed Frye would likely re-sign with the Lakers in order to be a veteran locker room presence and due to his friendship with both head coach Luke Walton and LeBron James.
However, things don’t always work out as planned. The Lakers signed the likes of Rajon Rondo, Lance Stepheson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley, plus re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to fill out their roster.
On the “Road Trippin'” podcast, Frye explained he had interest in remaining with the Lakers but it wasn’t necessarily mutual:
“Yes and no. Yes, because I wanted to (re-sign). No, because they didn’t want me. It worked like this. For me, I told everybody, listen, I didn’t know how much the market was going to shrink, especially for big guys. It’s crazy because every west coast team is like, ‘We want wings, we need length, we need like three/tweeners,’ so like the big-guy shooter thing, out the window. A guy like Ryan Anderson who just got like $100 million, you got to go. Every team plays maybe two big guys, and those big guys get minutes and then they go small. Like, they’re four-man is really a three or two-man, just so they can match up with Houston, Golden State, Portland, all these other teams. All the big guys went to the East. So for me, after looking at realistically what’s going to happen, like L.A. just wasn’t going to work out. So it was kind of like a conversation of like, ‘Do you want me to wait for you guys to see what happens with this team when you put this team together?’ Or do I want to go somewhere where I’m going to have an opportunity maybe to play, I can earn my minutes, I know the coaches, I know the city. Like, I had an opportunity to go to Toronto, but in all actuality, I love Canada, I love Toronto, I think that’s a great team. Even when I got traded to L.A., they said, ‘Hey, if you get bought out, we want you to come play for us.’ I respect these teams, I just wanted to go back to Cleveland.”
Frye makes a good point about how drastically the game has shifted in recent years. The Lakers, as of now, have only four true centers or power forwards on their roster. This includes McGee, Wagner, Ivica Zubac and Kyle Kuzma.
The Lakers are doing this most likely in an effort to compete with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, who rarely have more than one post player on the court at a time, and often have zero.
In an adapting NBA, someone such as Frye may struggle to see consistent minutes, especially on such a young, athletic team like the Lakers, making his transition back to the Cavaliers the perfect move.
Prior to the regular season concluding, Frye made it clear he was open to re-signing with the Lakers and was willing to fill whatever role would be asked of him. He even offered to serve as a recruiter for James and other NBA free agents.