There’s a notion out there that the Trail Blazers, while loaded with youth and talent, lack toughness. Some would say when other teams push, the Blazers don’t necessarily push back. Right or wrong, it’s a perception that exists.
So I asked Channing Frye, a guy whose style of play doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of the rugged old-school NBA power forward, how he defines toughness, the perception of Portland as a “soft” team and whether or not he feels the Trail Blazers lack that dog mentality championship-caliber teams need to succeed.
Center Court: What is toughness on the court?
Channing Frye: Toughness is your ability to get your job done regardless of situations. I think toughness isn’t a matter of being the guy that’s always trying to fight everybody. It’s a matter of, what is your job on the basketball court? Are you going to let other people dictate what you do? You know what I’m saying? That’s being mentally tough.
[At this time, Brandon Roy walks by and mutters something about Channing being “the goon.”]
Or if you’re tired, are you not going to be able to run as hard or make mental plays? I think that’s toughness. Or if something is going on in your life, are you going to come out and still play and get your job done and not complain? That’s toughness to me. It’s not the biggest dude who always wants to fight everybody. That’s not toughness, that’s idiotic really. We’re out here to play basketball, not fight.
Center Court: Would you consider yourself a tough player?
Channing Frye: Toughness comes from situations, so yeah, I think I would say I’m pretty tough. My job is to go out there and not only put the ball in the hoop but to be productive for our team, and I think I continue to try and do that.
I think overall our team is pretty tough. There’s not many guys that, when you see them on the court, are just not tough on our team. I’m not saying we’re the most dominant physical players but I still think we’re tough as a collective group.
Center Court: A lot of people don’t consider this team tough at all.
Channing Frye: If you look at the people that are giving you those opinions those are guys that grew up watching the Detroit Pistons, where fights were once every two days. You can’t fight anymore in the league, so toughness is a matter of: Are you going to get your job done regardless?
Any time anybody does something to one of our teammates you see all five stand up, and maybe six or seven on the bench stand up. We have a team unity and a team-type of toughness. We’re not going to sit here and get punked by other teams and let them deter us from what we need to do. They may outplay us, but they’re not going to out-tough us.
Center Court: Roy just mentioned you as a goon. What’s that about?
Channing Frye: The goon is a type of dude that’s just tough down there. Like if you’re going to the hoop, the guy who is going to take the tough foul; who’s going to take one for the team. I think last year that was kind of my role at the beginning and they just joked around because they know that’s not really what I do. But I’m glad I got that opportunity to see how it was, but I’m leaning up so I’m not sure I can go down there and wrestle with all the big heathens.
Center Court: Now who’s going to commit the hard foul?
Channing Frye: Greg and Joel? I think everybody has opportunities during the game when you have to take that hard foul. Not only to send a message to your own team but to let the other team know that we’re here and we’re ready to play. Anybody just isn’t going to get a layup.
Center Court: Which teams would you consider “tough” in the NBA?
Channing Frye: The Celtics were extremely tough, extremely. And San Antonio is tough. The veteran teams are tough. If you look, everybody knows what systems they run. Everybody knows how they play, but they continually grind the game out. They continually do what they have to do to win those games. And that’s toughness.
This is the second of a three-part blog series (read part one and part three)To read more about Channing Frye's offseason, click here.