PHOENIX - On the night that the Phoenix Suns traded their first-round pick in 2006 for Boston to draft Rajon Rondo, managing partner Robert Sarver took the stage in the US Airways Center pavilion with Amare Stoudemire and said, "Here's our first-round pick for next year right here."
The Suns are not in the business of purging first-round picks any longer, but they are in position to bring back a power forward whose health sidelined him for a season.
Former Arizona Wildcat Channing Frye, who learned of a virus enlarging his heart after a September screening, missed all of the Suns' 2012-13 season to see how his heart would respond to months of no activity beyond golf, yoga, walking and set-shooting.
As the Suns approach Thursday's draft and the start of free agency Monday, they also are factoring in Frye's future as he nears final word from elite cardiologists who examined him for three days at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
"We're both trying to be safe," Frye said from his Portland, Ore., home. "I've seen the best, and it's up to us to decide the best for my future. I'm extremely hopeful and optimistic that everything gets worked out and I get to play next year for the Suns."
Frye said he spent a great deal of time gathering medical opinions but wishes he had sought top advice at the Cleveland Clinic or Johns Hopkins earlier.
Since joining the Suns in early May, general manager Ryan McDonough talked to Frye, as he has done with all players. They have a close mutual friend, Mike Procopio, the director of Hoop Consultants who worked alongside McDonough and has assisted Frye's career.
McDonough's basketball talk has included an appreciation for the "stretch four," a power forward with three-point shooting range. Frye made more threes than anyone over the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons (343), but he also showed defensive growth to take advantage of his 6-foot-11-inch frame.
Frye, 30, would be the Suns' third-highest-paid player next season at $6.4 million and he has a $6.8 million player option for the 2014-15 season. Insurance covered Frye's $6 million salary for last season because he missed the season due to the heart issue. If he was unable to play again, the Suns would receive salary-cap relief for his contract this year.
"I'm excited for the Suns regardless of what happens and for Ryan to put his ideas on the court," Frye said. "I feel a part of it, and he said he has a part for me."
When Frye talks about returning, he sounds fearless. There is no hesitation in his confidence.
Frye relished the family time with his wife, Lauren, and children, Hendrix, 2, and Margaux, 1. He completed his degree and walked at Arizona's spring commencement. He attended the X-Games. But nothing fills the void of basketball. He talks about the playoffs like a network analyst who has watched every minute.
"I miss this game more than I could explain in this article," Frye said. "It's who I am. I had a firm belief that I wasn't done once this happened. If I didn't love the game so much, I wouldn't have seen so many doctors.
"It's been a trying time. but I have that much more appreciation for the city of Phoenix. The fans have been so supportive. It just makes me want to come back and play in the city that much more and make us a winning franchise again."