The Cleveland Cavaliers might not have won the 2016 NBA Finals if not for a 6-foot-11 forward who averaged 13.9 minutes per game during last season’s playoffs.
Yes, it appears Channing Frye made the Cavaliers champions.
In a recent story on ESPN.com, Jackie MacMullan chronicled how Frye helped bond the team together en route to hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“Channing is the middle man,” LeBron James told MacMullan. “He bridges the gap. He’s perfect for our culture. We needed him.”
Frye was acquired by the Cavaliers before the 2016 trade deadline in a three-team deal that sent Anderson Varejao, one of James’ favorite teammates, to the Portland Trail Blazers.
James at first had some concerns about trading Varejao, but Richard Jefferson, who has been friends with Frye for almost two decades, squashed those fears.
“Hey, RJ,” James asked Jefferson shortly after the trade. “What about Channing Frye? How’s he going to fit with us?”
“Man, you are gonna love him,” Jefferson said. “He will bring us all closer. You’ll see.”
And Frye did just that, by bridging the gap between James and All-Star forward Kevin Love
Love and James had been at odds since the Cavaliers put their championship roster together in August of 2014. Love, who had been the go-to-guy for the Minnesota Timberwolves, initially had issues adjusting to his offensive role in Cleveland. But when Frye arrived some 18 months later, that all changed.
“Kevin used to say, ‘Man, all I do is shoot 3s,'” Jefferson said. “Then Channing comes in and says, ‘This is awesome! All we do is shoot 3s!’ So now Kevin stops and realizes, ‘Yeah, I guess we do get a lot of open 3s.'”
And when the Cavaliers fell into a 3-1 series hole against the Golden State Warriors in last year’s NBA Finals, Frye was a major reason they were able to overcome the seemingly insurmountable deficit.
“Normally,” Jefferson said, “guys in that situation start to splinter, they point fingers, which is 100 percent natural. But we collectively said, ‘No, we’re not doing that. We’re getting out of this mess together.'”
That’s exactly what they did.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images