Channing Frye shaking off rust, making contribution to Magic

Channing Frye had 11 points in Saturday's loss to Toronto after missing all of the preseason and the season opener vs. New Orleans.

Kim Klement

ORLANDO, Fla. — The minutes for Channing Frye are beginning to increase. So are his opportunities to fire away from 3-point range as the Orlando Magic had anticipated.

After missing the entire preseason and then last week’s regular-season opener at New Orleans because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, the veteran forward who was signed to a four-year, $32 million contract in July knows being able to mesh with his teammates won’t happen automatically. But there were signs in the losses at home to Washington and Toronto that Frye doesn’t have far to go before being able to contribute in areas beyond scoring.

”The timing is one of those things, especially on defense,” he said Monday before the Magic left on a two-game trip where they will play at Chicago and Philadelphia on successive nights. ”I’m a step slow on certain things. And I’ve got to get better at rebounding. That’s just me having energy to run in there and run back out. But I’m starting to get my legs underneath me and starting to be a little more active. So I’m better than I was the first game, and hopefully I’ll be better than I was the last game.”

Although Frye had 11 points Saturday night in their 108-95 loss to the Raptors, he was credited with just one rebound and called for five fouls in almost 32 minutes. While both rookie point Elfrid Payton and center Nikola Vucevic have already shown a knack for passing the ball out to Frye near the 3-point arc, there was a play in that game where the ball drifted away from him and Ben Gordon had to chase it down near the mid-court line.

And with several back-to-back games coming up in the next couple of weeks, developing more of an on-court chemistry will have to occur without the benefit of much practice time.

”That’s just going to come,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. ”Unfortunately, it’s got to come during the games.”

Frye took only three shots in 24 minutes in his Magic debut against the Wizards and admitted afterward he was guilty of doing too much standing around. He went 4 of 10 from the floor two nights later in a game where the Magic were without Kyle O’Quinn (sprained left ankle) for the second game in a row and rookie Aaron Gordon picked up three fouls not even two minutes after coming off the bench.

”I feel like we have a pretty deep team,” Frye said. ”(Vaughn) has been doing a pretty good job of keeping guys in the right rotations. We’ve just got to come out and get a win. We’ve got to figure it out.”

One player who appears to have benefitted as much as anyone from Frye’s return is guard Evan Fournier, who has started all three games in the spot usually held down by the injured Victor Oladipo. Fournier had 21 points against the Wizards and 18 against the Raptors while playing with an assertiveness which he lacked during the preseason.

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”I really like to drive and get into the paint,” Fournier said. ”And when you have Channing as a stretch 4, it definitely helps me.”

Added Frye: ”We need him to be assertive at that spot. We’re going to need him to be constantly aggressive.”

The Magic went 0-2 at home despite having a better field-goal percentage than both the Wizards and Raptors. While they won at Chicago last December, that was one of just four victories the Magic managed away from home all season.

”It’s just hard in general to win in this league,” Frye said. ”For us, we’re looking at this (trip) as a challenge and an opportunity to get better.”

Vaughn has been pleased with the team’s half-court defense in general but said a greater emphasis needs to be placed on containing players one-on-one. Those breakdowns have contributed to the large number of free-throw attempts and offensive rebounds opposing teams have gotten. The 26 offensive rebounds by the Pelicans and the 48 free throws shot by the Raptors were more than any team got last season against the Magic in either category.

Frye is optimistic those bugs will be worked out with his help.

”If you’re in a dark room and somebody said ‘sprint ahead,’ you’re going to go fast, as long as keep your arms out,” he said. ”And for us, once we click on defense, we’re going to be able to go ahead full speed. For now, we’re just sort of feeling it out. But at the same time, we need to win games.”

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.