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Will Blazers have a role for Frye?

On the NBA
by: L.E. BASKOW, Channing Frye is getting the opportunity to start Portland’s final games, with Joel Przybilla out for the season. Frye could be the odd man out of the rotation, though, when Greg Oden arrives.

Channing Frye is one of the most engaging personalities on a Trail Blazer team full of them.

The 6-11 center-forward also is realistic. After playing his best game in a Portland uniform - knocking down 9 of 12 shots and notching season highs for points (22) and rebounds (11) in Tuesday's 112-103 victory over the L.A. Lakers - Frye was philosophical.

'I just wanted to let it loose, man,' he said. 'Tomorrow, I could be back on the bench. I could be 'DNP' (did not play).'

With Joel Przybilla (broken wrist) lost for the season, Frye is the likely starting center in Portland's final four games, beginning tonight at Sacramento.

Frye has proved himself as an offensive weapon, shooting .472 from the field and averaging 6.4 points while playing only 16 minutes per game, mostly off the bench.

Next season, though, coach Nate McMillan will have Przybilla and Greg Oden at his disposal at center, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw at power forward. If those four players are healthy, Frye could be the odd man out in the Blazer rotation up front.

The 6-11 Frye might be Portland's best midrange jump shooter, but he is only an average rebounder and is sub-par as a post-up scorer and defender.

'The strength of Channing's game is his ability to shoot,' McMillan says. 'Early (in the season), we had him posting and were throwing the ball into him. He can get better at that. He has been playing out of position pretty much all season long - at center instead of power forward - and that has had an effect. He is better at face-up situations than with his back to the basket. But the defensive end is the area where he needs to make the most improvement.'

Outlaw's emergence as a major offensive threat leaves Frye's position with the Blazers tenuous. Though Outlaw seems better-suited as a small forward, McMillan prefers to use him at power forward.

'Travis can play some 3, but I like him best at the 4,' McMillan says. 'If Travis is in the starting lineup, then you can look at Frye (as the backup 4). That will play itself out in training camp, and we'll settle on a rotation.'

It's easy to forget that Frye - who won't turn 25 until May 17 - is in only his third NBA season. It's a nice luxury for McMillan to have the former Arizona standout as a sort of safety valve or life raft at the post positions, providing the depth that a playoff-caliber team must have. Don't be surprised if Frye once again winds up playing an important role for the Blazers.

• The Blazers have had their issues with the Lakers' Lamar Odom over the past two years - remember him challenging the Blazer players during a timeout last season? - so it wasn't surprising that he was a central figure in a pivotal part of Tuesday's game.

His flagrant foul on Brandon Roy late in the third quarter brought a strong reaction from Frye, Outlaw and Aldridge, who immediately got in Odom's face and had to be restrained by referees.

Aldridge said he was glad to come to Roy's aid after the flagrant foul.

'It was nothing out of the ordinary,' Aldridge says. 'I'm bigger than Travis. I was ready to take (Odom) on.'

McMillan believes Odom tries to intimidate Aldridge with trash talk and rough play. Aldridge got the better of Odom Tuesday, going for 22 points and a season-high 16 rebounds compared to Odom's 11 and five.

As for any bad blood between the two, Aldridge shrugs, 'It's all competitive. I don't know him on a personal basis. He could be a great person, but on a competitive note, I don't like him.'

• Roy, incidentally, is incredibly savvy for a second-year pro. He was quick to praise Frye, Outlaw and Aldridge after the game.

'My teammates did a good job of coming to my rescue,' Roy said. 'I really appreciate that. It shows how close this team is.'

That's a comment from a team leader designed to build unity and have a positive effect with his teammates in the future. Roy has not only superstar skills but an innate sense of what to say at just the right time.

• If the Blazer players are any indication, Barack Obama will become our next president. Of 10 players questioned for their choice, Obama got six votes, Hillary Clinton one and John McCain one, with two undecided.

'Obama is a breath of fresh air,' forward James Jones says. 'He's something different … high energy, which is what we really need. Not the same old same old since Bill Clinton was in office. Nothing against Hillary, but the Clintons had their time.'

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