CLEVELAND -- Channing Frye sat in front of his locker Wednesday night, already showered and dressed but with sweat still dripping down his face after the Cleveland Cavaliers' 114-103 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Before he stood up to speak to the media, Frye asked Kevin Love for one of the ice packs he was about to wrap around his knees and placed it square atop his head.
“You are so special,” Richard Jefferson said in a patronizing tone when he spotted Frye cooling his dome. It was a pretty apt adjective for Frye’s night, even if Jefferson was teasing.
The backup big man, acquired at last week’s trade deadline in a three-team deal from Orlando, pumped in 15 points in 18 minutes on 5-for-9 shooting (4-for-8 from 3-point territory) with six rebounds, an assist and a steal against the Hornets.
After playing just nine uneventful minutes in his Cavs debut Monday, Frye exploded against Charlotte. He did most of his damage in the fourth quarter, as he helped turn a 12-point Cleveland lead after three quarters into a 24-point cushion, allowing coach Tyronn Lue to rest starters LeBron James, Tristan Thompson and Love for the entire final period while his team ran away with the win.
Frye came in on the Cavs’ off day on Tuesday to go over schemes with the coaching staff and to get up extra shots (“That’s what they pay me to do, right?” he said), yet his outburst against Charlotte came before he even participated in a practice with the Cavs, as he wasn’t medically cleared to join them until Monday afternoon.
The 10-year veteran was simply playing off instincts. Even for a player with as much experience as he has, being so open so often while playing with the collection of players the Cavs have accumulated took some getting used to.
“When they start yelling at you to shoot the ball,” Frye said, “you just got to say screw it and shoot it.”
Indeed, the Cavs are keeping it simple for Frye so far. Asked how he has personally helped Frye’s acclimation process, James said, “I told him to shoot every time I throw it to him. Because I won’t throw it to him unless I know he’s got a shot.”
Frye was brought in for that 3-point stroke of his, a 38.7 percent marksman from long range for his career, and his 6-foot-11 frame that allows him to take the shot over just about anyone.
“We basically told him if no one is in your jersey, just let that thing go,” Kyrie Irving said.
Not only does he give the Cavs a deep threat, he also gives their bench -- which came into the game ranked just 28th in the league in scoring at 26.9 points per game -- some much-needed depth.
Lue says Frye’s role will be primarily as Love’s backup, but he wants them both to play together at times.
“I envision Channing likely being the guy spreading for 3 and with me being a dynamic roller, cleaning up the boards and also posting up,” Love said. “In my mind’s eye, that’s how it would work.”
Frye's arrival coincided with Iman Shumpert missing the past three games because of a sprained left shoulder. When Shumpert returns, which could be as soon as Friday in Toronto, Lue says he’ll still have minutes for Frye.
“We just have to keep getting him out there and keep getting him comfortable. He’s going to be a great help for us,” Lue said. “We have to play Iman too. We’re going to try to play all those guys. It’s going to be tough, but guys are going to play.”
Playing isn’t something Frye had been doing much of in Orlando. You have to go back to Jan. 18 to find a game he logged as many minutes in as he did against the Hornets on Wednesday.
“It’s been a while,” Frye said. “That fourth quarter got long. It got long. I’m not going to lie. But it’s good. I’m glad I got the opportunity to stay out there, get some legs and get used to guys.”
Cavs fans still have to get used to seeing Frye on the court in place of Anderson Varejao, who was shipped out in the deal that brought him in. Reminders of the mop-topped fan favorite were everywhere Wednesday, from Frye’s locker being right next to Varejao’s locker that the Cavs purposely left empty to honor his 12 years of service there, to Varejao making his debut for Golden State the same night against Miami as Cleveland players watched the final minutes of that game unfold on a television in the locker room.
“It’s a tough situation,” Frye admitted. “Anderson Varejao is a great player. He’s done a lot for this organization. So, don’t shoot me. If we could, we could have kept him. It is what it is. It’s part of the business.
“So, he’s in a good spot. I think he’s valued across the league, so he’s always going to have his time here, and I mean, I can’t really take it back. I kind of want to be here.”
With that, Frye -- now properly cooled down -- grabbed his coat (one shipped to him by Nike along with a wardrobe full of warm clothes he was lacking after living in Florida) and headed out of the locker room. If he stays as hot on the court as he was Wednesday, he’ll handle what’s left of the Cleveland winter just fine.