Time: 6 p.m. MST TV: FSA After getting annihilated 122-97 on the second night of back-to back games against the Denver Nuggets (8-8), the Phoenix Suns (10-7) return home to take a struggling Orlando...

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Here's a Q and A on Channing Frye with Zach Oliver of the SB Nation partner Orland Pinstriped Post. Channing had a knee issue in training camp and did not play any games with the team until after the season had started.

Let's check out how Channing is doing with the Magic, ahead of tonight's tilt between the Magic and the Suns.


Bright Side: 1) How has Channing fit in with the Magic? Looks like he's playing a lot of PF minutes as a stretch 4. He's shooting a career-high rate of threes (64% of all his shots) and converting a lot of them (42%) but his points per 36 are a career low (under 10). How come he's not more a part of the offense?

Zach Oliver: Channing's fit with the team has been interesting so far. He missed all of training camp and preseason with an MCL sprain, and I think it really put him, and his teammates, behind. They seem to lack a certain level of chemistry out there at times, and certainly that can be attributed to the missed time.

As for him not scoring as much... I think it's part of building chemistry, and also part of the team not really running plays that can fit his game. He's so deadly in the pick-and-pop game, but they haven't really used him a lot there.

I wrote a little bit about him, and how the team needed to get him more involved after Wednesday night's game against the Golden State Warriors. With more time, and hopefully better health for the team, they can find a way to get Channing more involved, because when he's on, and the team is finding him, the offense is at it's best, as we saw against the Detroit Pistons a few weeks ago.

2) Has Channing been a good leader in the locker room? He was a quiet leader that helped the young Suns a year ago stay even-keeled all year. Has he been the same on Orlando?

I think so. We really haven't seen him really "coaching up" any of the younger guys following games, but I imagine he's been helping them behind the scenes quite a bit. He has been vocal about things this season, however, which I think could be a good thing for the team. Channing and Tobias Harris are also cousins, so I think that, if anyone, Channing's impact has been big with Tobias, who's playing some of the best basketball of his career to start the season.

3) He was quoted recently of being "tired of losing" after only about 10 games. Was that just to light a fire? Or does he seem frustrated?

Probably a mix of both. There's been a bit of frustration in the locker room from a handful of guys recently, so it's clear they're all pretty frustrated with their play. In that piece I linked previously, I talked some about Evan Fournier talking about the team playing "selfish" basketball, and it's shown out there.

Channing has been frustrated some, be it with him play or the way things are going so far. After one of his first few games, he said he needed more shots, and he got those shots for a few games, but hasn't gotten those consistently. He also talked about how he needed to rebounded better, and he has for a few games, but I'd imagine it isn't where he wants it to be on a per game basis.

This West coast trip for them is going to be big. We're going to really learn who they are, and maybe the frustration will seep out even more and light a fire under them. They've been playing some uninspiring basketball of late, so we'll see if guys comments are really taken to heart or not.

4) Channing was an okay post defender with the Suns, something few teams and fans really knew about him that really helped solidify his role in the lineup beyond just threes. Has that been evident in Orlando?

No, not really. Channing has really struggled in a lot of aspects this season, most notably rebounding consistently and defensively. He's been abused more often than not, and it's been frustrating for many to watch.

He's been playing a ton as you alluded to in the first question, but has been put in some positions where he hasn't been successful. On Friday night, David West had his way with him on the boards and scoring the ball. Over the course of the season, I would imagine things will even out, but right now, it's been a struggle for Channing defensively.

5) In the small sample size so far this season, has the deal for Channing been worth it?

Right now, I would lean on the side of no. The way he's been used in the offense hasn't fully allowed him to show his real worth, and that's one of the biggest problems as to why he hasn't fulfilled the shoes that contract came with. And that's not his fault by any means, but his lackluster defense and below average rebounding hurts him quite a bit.

Over time I believe the deal will prove to be a good one once the team has good chemistry, and things are going smoother. Now, that might be next season, especially if the team ends up with a new head coach, but, it'll prove it's worth. It just needs time.


Thanks for the feedback, Zach!

You can follow Zach Oliver on twitter at @ZachOliverNBA. Zach writes for our SB Nation partner Orlando Pinstriped Post and contributes to Thunder Obsessed.

The Phoenix Suns need a win at home against a young, struggling Orlando Magic team. New Suns starter Markieff Morris faces off against the guy he backed up last season, Channing Frye.

Tonight the Phoenix Suns face Channing Frye and the Orlando Magic (7:00 6:00 pm AZ time on FoxSports Arizona (TV) and ArizonaSports 98.7 (radio)). The Magic feature 6 of their top 7 players being 24 or younger around Frye (31) as their only veteran influence playing more than 16 minutes per game.

The Suns were blown out in their last game, but have won 5 of their last 7 overall (six of which were road games) and return home for a couple of rare home games during this stretch of 22 of 31 on the road through the holidays. The Suns need to take care of business at home when they get the chance.

The Magic

The Orlando Magic have started the season 6-12, and their major free agent signing to help them develop a winning attitude sees first hand how extreme youth can be unpredictable.

"It was a dangerous time, I don't know, how many losses ago,'' Channing Frye said after the Pacers loss on Friday night dropped them to 6-12. "We want to get better. That sense of urgency should start to get in people's guts now and we've just got to pick it up. We did some good things, but we can't have lulls and we're not good enough to completely (mess) up the third quarter like that, especially against a good team with veterans.''

Magic are facing a tough road schedule themselves, in the middle of a season-high six game trip through some tough teams. Working against the Magic is their youth, but unlike Philadelphia the front office has a strong desire to develop a winning culture and has provided the team with enough talent to compete in every game. They have veterans on the bench and in the locker room - Frye, Willie Green, Luke Ridnour and Ben Gordon - who can show the kids how to be professional.

Elfrid Payton - their youngest rotation player at age 20 - is not starting lately but is having a productive season with 6.6 points and 5 assists per game, but shooting only 38% from the field. He's exactly how he was billed coming out of college - a good prospect who cannot shoot straight.

Last year's prize pick, Victor Oladipo, is a bigger, shooting-guard version of Payton who can do a little bit of everything but struggles to shoot well consistently. This year's prize pick, Aaron Gordon, is out due to injury.

The Magic's two best players this season are Tobias Harris (22) and Nikola Vucevic (24). Vucevic, signed to a long-term deal this offseason, is a load under the basket on both offense and defense but does not protect the rim nor does he have the quick feet to actively defend the pick-and-roll staple that's prevalent in NBA game plans.

The Suns

Can you guess what question is asked most often of the Phoenix Suns in the first month of the season? My guess is either "Can I get an interview with Isaiah Thomas?" or "Hey Isaiah, what do you think about your playing time?"

The latest reporter to publish an exclusive quote from Isaiah about his role on the Suns is Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. The interview likely took place last week when the Suns were in town to play to Celtics.

"My teammates are good guys, the organization is great, and the style of play is perfect," Thomas said. "It's a big reason why I chose here because it favors my strengths, getting up and down, scoring and shooting at will, and using our strength, which is our guards."

Thomas has missed the last two Suns games (the team went 1-1) with an ankle bruise suffered on a three-point attempt in the closing minute of the Toronto game. Two days later, coach Jeff Hornacek was clearly still peeved that Thomas was called for an offensive foul there despite being hit hard in the chest and landing awkwardly on the ankle as a result. Suns beat writer Paul Coro reported yesterday from practice that Thomas played half-court and walked off limping. His status for today's game is "game time decision".

One bright spot of the blowout loss to Denver on Saturday night was the Suns' chance to play all four of their kiddies at once. Early in the fourth, before Alex Len was taken out for Shavlik Randolph, the Suns had Len (21), T.J. Warren (21), Archie Goodwin (20) and Tyler Ennis (20) on the court together with Anthony Tolliver. The kids were all fairly productive but looked admittedly ragged in execution because they don't get much time out there together.

The Suns are last in the league in free throws allowed per field goal attempt. It's as if the Suns can't stand the idea of only giving up two points on a possession. The Suns have put the opponent on the free throw line for 30+ FTs in 10 of 17 games (going 5-5 in those games), while going 5-2 in games they held opponents under 30 FT attempts.

"We've got to stop taking the dumb fouls," Markieff Morris said to Paul Coro after practice yesterday. "Sometimes, we've got to just let them have buckets and not just foul."

Coach Hornacek says it's all about being a step late on contesting the shot, which allows the opponent to begin the shooting motion before the defender arrives. He joked the other night that at least the Suns are trying to be aggressive, as opposed to the times they just stand there.

Last year's Suns-Magic series

The Suns swept last year's series, winning 104-96 in Orlando and 109-93 at home.

The early-season win in Orlando was without Bledsoe (shin) while Goran Dragic had a monster 23 points and 13 assists in only 33 minutes of play. Channing Frye made only 2 of 9 three-point shots on the way to 14 points.

In the home game on March 19, Dragic again had a good game (18 points, 6 assists in 33 minutes) but no one else in the Suns rotation played more than 25 minutes in the blowout win. Eric Bledsoe was good all-around (7 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists in 25 minutes).

For the Magic, Arron Afflalo (now with the Nuggets) was very good in both games. Tobias Harris was good in the spring game, with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench in 32 minutes but really the Magic were no contest to the Suns last season.

How they compare




Key Matchup

The most interesting matchup in this game is Markieff Morris vs. Channing Frye. Frye started every game last year while Markieff Morris came off the bench and put up better numbers (13 and 6 vs. 11 and 5) in fewer minutes. But Frye is deadly in terms of pulling a big man way out of the paint, while Morris has not been as successful in that regard because he's not making (or even taking) his threes enough to command the attention.

But the matchup that will decide the game is whether the Magic's leading scorer and rebounder Nikola Vucevic completely dominates the paint or not. If the Suns are focused, Plumlee and Len can hold their own. But if they lay an egg like they did against Jonas Valencuinas last Monday, the Suns will have a tough time.

Another interesting matchup will be the hyper-athletic backcourt of Oladipo and Payton against the Suns' Dragic and Bledsoe. Payton comes off the bench, but they will share the court on occasion unless Fournier has a great game (which he might).

Out on a limb

Markieff Morris was uncharacteristically bad on Friday night against Denver, but the Morris has been the Suns' most consistent player this season and will likely have extra motivation to prove himself against the guy who took his starting job last year. Frye will get threes up, but Morris will have the better all-around game.

Final Prediction

The Suns are just a better basketball team and they are embarrassed by their awful showing against Denver on Friday night. Expect the Suns to come out with a ton of energy and put make this game more about the matchups than the final score. The Magic just don't have the offensive weapons to compete over 48 minutes for the win on the road.

Suns by 15.

In the Suns' last four games against the Pacers, Raptors and Nuggets, Gerald Green has averaged 18 points per game on 46% shooting (and 26.2 points per 36 minutes). For that, he is the Suns' player of the week.

At the start of this season, I was almost sure that despite the contract year, Gerald Green was bound for some regression. After posting career-high numbers in virtually every statistical category, we just had to see at least a bit of drop-off from the Green Machine. Last season, in the minds of many, was an anomaly.

And though it's much too early to crown Green the Sixth Man of the Year, so far we have seen no regression. His minutes have been cut, and his role reduced, and yet he remains just as efficient and productive as he was when he started alongside Goran Dragic. In fact, some might argue that he has even been outplaying both starting guards on the roster.

In the past four games, Green has averaged 18 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, and 26.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. That is on 46% shooting from the field, 50% shooting from deep and 88% shooting from the free-throw line.

Not only that, but Gerald also celebrated the birth of his second son, Julius Green. That ultimately forced me to give him the edge over Eric Bledsoe for player of the week honors.

We all know of Gerald's faults; he'll shoot you out of a lead as quickly as he can shoot you into one. He's both lovable and frustrating; to watch him dribble the ball on a fast break can be as electrifying as it is terrifying.

Therefore, it needs to be stressed that the following video of Green's early season highlights paints only a one-sided, idealized picture of Gerald. While most would agree that he is a steal at $3.5 million, there's a reason that he's coming off the bench. His defense needs work, as does his shot selection. And having nine fingers doesn't make ball handling a particularly easy task either.

Enjoy these next several months of Gerald Green, because we do not know what his future holds. There is a sense of commitment that the organization has with Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas that you won't see with Green. And if both Dragic and Green demand large salary increases in free agency, we all know which one will be prioritized by McDonough.

There are no indications that Green is anything less than enamored with the Phoenix Suns, the organization that finally gave him a chance to shine in the NBA. But how he fits the franchise's future plans will be interesting to track.

Tell us how you feel about the Green situation in the comments below, and make sure to vote on the poll for your player of the week!

Who is your player of the week?

  136 votes | Results

On Sunday night, erstwhile Suns forward Channing Frye returns to the valley with the Orlando Magic as they come into town to face the Suns.

When Channing Frye jumped the shark from the Phoenix Suns to the Orlando Magic in July, he said he wanted to go to a team focused on the future and the development of young players into a playoff caliber team. It was a sub-dig at the Suns for putting him on the back burner after he opted out while they courted LeBron James and considered trading for Kevin Love in a get-rich-quick scheme before turning back to their own veterans' free agency.

As free agency approached, there was no obvious market for a raise over Frye's $7.5 million contract last season, but that proved folly as the Magic topped it before the gates even opened. The Magic gave the 31-year old Frye $32 million guaranteed over four years, a raise from his last contract signed in 2010 (5 years for $34 million, which had an opt-out in the summer of 2014).

The Suns lost out on LeBron, but not before Frye had already left for Orlando. They turned quickly to a great bargain in Isaiah Thomas and then signed Anthony Tolliver to replicate a bit of Frye's skills. But it was Thomas who took over the majority of Frye's minutes while the rest of the roster shifted to make room.

Little did Suns fans realize at the time how neatly Thomas would replace Frye as the most polarizing player on the roster. Thomas had a free ride all summer as Suns fans hated on Eric Bledsoe's holdout, but once the games began and the Suns didn't shoot out of the gate quickly, the fire turned to Thomas who continues to express desire to start and finish games.

Frye, meanwhile, moved into the very situation he desired this summer - as the veteran locker room presence among a team of kids who just don't know how to win games yet.

Within two weeks of the season starting, though, Frye was already tired of losing.

Magic lose to Raptors

Frye finished with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point land, to go with six rebounds in 43 minutes. While some might take a down-to-the-final-minute road loss against the best team in the conference as a sign of growth for the young and still-rebuilding Magic, the ninth-year vet didn't seem especially interested in praising baby steps after the game.

"Tip your hat to them, but you know, again, everyone's like, 'Oh, we're close to winning,'" Frye said after the game, as captured in an NSFW Vine by Deadspin's Tim Burke. "But that's still f****** losing."

--Recap on yahoo! Sports, 11/12/2014

But Frye hasn't been an on-court savior quite yet for the Magic. He's been less effective offensively than a year ago with the Suns (career-low 9.7 points per 36 minutes vs. 14.2 last year), though his three-point shooting has been stellar (42%).

Frye still shoots threes whenever he can, taking a career-high 64% of all his shots from behind the arc. With the Suns, Frye averaged 52% of his shots from behind the arc. He's a full-time stretch four with Nikola Vucevic manning the paint and cousin Tobias Harris pulling down more rebounds from the SF spot than Frye at the PF spot, mostly because Frye is not getting any offensive boards thanks to his position behind the arc.

In Friday night's loss to the Pacers, Frye expressed more concern over the Magic's fortitude in the face of adversity.

Magic lose to Pacers

Frye had three 3-pointers in the first half, but did not score in the second half. He said the young Magic squad has hit a dangerous point in the season where they must respond so that the momentum doesn't continue work against them.

"It was a dangerous time, I don't know, how many losses ago,'' Frye said. "We want to get better. That sense of urgency should start to get in people's guts now and we've just got to pick it up. We did some good things, but we can't have lulls and we're not good enough to completely (mess) up the third quarter like that, especially against a good team with veterans.''

--recap on NBA.com on 11/29/2014

It's going to be a long season for Frye in Orlando. The Magic are 6-12 and already lost rookie Aaron Gordon for the season. Even without Gordon, the other top 6 guys in the rotation around Frye are 24 or younger.

The Magic have a bright future, but might just see their team play out their rookie contracts before becoming playoff contenders. Both of their best players - Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris - are already in their fourth seasons (same as the Morris twins) and will be restricted free agents next summer. Neither was signed to a long-term deal last fall.

Hopefully, Channing Frye can enjoy the progress year over year without the pressure of making the playoffs.

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