PHOENIX – One pathway to health was lined with pills, but Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye wasn’t about to go near it.
He felt that way even after a virus frighteningly froze his NBA career at its peak last year, causing an enlarged heart that threatened the former University of Arizona’s player’s professional career.
“I’m not a big Advil guy. I don’t like Ibuprofen,” Frye said. “I feel like your body is built so perfectly to heal itself. You’ve just got to give it a chance, to listen to it and fix it.”
So this is how Frye says he healed enough to be able to rejoin the Suns officially Monday as they opened their preseason:
He was in Oregon, next to the water, with a yoga instructor. Stretching, meditating, reaching inside.
Five days a week.
“It was just really helping me continue to stay in touch with my body, helping me meditate,” Frye said. “There were a lot of things I couldn’t control, and that was tough to deal with. It was tough for me not to be active.”
Really tough. Frye tried to just chill for a while after he was diagnosed with the enlarged heart in September 2012, but that didn’t work out so well.
“I’d wake up. Do yoga. Play with the kids. Uh, whatever I wanted,” Frye said. “Go to a ballgame maybe. Watch some football.”
Frye was also guaranteed $6 million, his salary last season that was paid by insurance.
He was still miserable.
“Boring. ... Not awesome,” Frye said. “After a week it’s cool, but then it’s like ‘C’mon.’ ”
By December, Frye said he began to take his health seriously and saw almost immediate improvement. One of his moves was to work with yoga instructor Angie Fie, the sister of Suns VP Julie Fie.
“It was great for me to go through it — I’m up to 30 minutes to meditate, which is huge just to sit somewhere for 30 minutes,” Frye said. “You’ve just got to learn to let go, control what you can control and not get caught up in the negative stuff and stay positive — and understand your path is not everyone else’s.”
According to the Arizona Republic, Frye also spent time with naturopathic physician Suneil Jain, who has worked with Steve Nash and other past Suns players, and natural cardiologist Jack Wolfson. Under their advice, Frye made other changes to his diet and lifestyle.
“To be honest, I think that’s how I got healthy,” Frye said. “I didn’t take any medication. The doctors that cleared me are regular doctors. The doctors I feel who made me healthy are naturopathic doctors. It may not work for everyone but it worked for me. It wasn’t about ‘Hey, fix this problem.’ It was like, ‘Hey get me the healthiest I can be.’ ”
Frye said his doctors cleared him a month ago but Suns officials stayed quiet until Monday, when they said Frye had been cleared fully. Frye participated in the Suns’ media day Monday and hopped the team bus afterward to go to their training camp in Flagstaff.
“We wanted consensus (from doctors) and we wanted it to be unanimous,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough said.
“Fortunately, at the end of the day, it was.”
McDonough said every plan Suns officials made for this season looked better with Frye as part of it. Not only can the 6-foot-11-inch Frye hit perimeter shots and stretch defenses, but, at 30, he also happens to be the oldest player on Phoenix’s revamped roster.
“We have enough bodies but obviously Channing does some special things,” McDonough said. “His leadership and professionalism are important for us.”
Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said Frye could be a “great weapon” for the Suns, with his ability to open up space for teammates to operate.
It just won’t happen right away. After all, Frye’s most vigorous activities in the past year have been yoga, some golf, and set shooting.
That isn’t exactly an NBA kind of pace.
“I just did a little here and there but nothing more,” Frye said. “Who knows? We’ll figure it out by the end of the week. Right now this is new territory for everybody. For me it’s about progression. If I can be better tomorrow than I was today, then I’m just gonna get better and figure it out from there.”
In other words, he’ll just keep listening to his body. Just like he did when he wondered if he would ever play again.
“I did a lot of meditation to think about it and you think, ‘Does it feel right? Is this what your body is telling you?’ “ Frye said. “When I sit down it’s like ... ‘I’m not done with that.’ That’s not me. I’m not done. I’m not gonna give up and I’m not going to sit here and say ‘You know what, this sucks. This is tough. It’s getting expensive and I’m tired of getting poked and prodded.’
“It was more like ‘You know what? I’m going to do 100 percent of what I can to get back because at the end of the day if I can’t come back I can say I did it all. I can live with that. And I’m cool with that.”