- Associated Press - Friday, July 9, 2010

PHOENIX (AP) - Early in free agency, Channing Frye wanted to keep his options open. Returning to his hometown of Phoenix was still at the top of the list, but he figured it was worth at least listening to other teams.

Turns out, there wasn’t much to say.

At nearly every turn, Frye heard teams tell him they liked his game and were interested, but weren’t ready to move just yet with players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh still on the market.

While those other teams were waiting and hoping, the Suns came after Frye. Hard. They were about to lose Amare Stoudemire and they made sure Frye knew he was their top offseason priority.

Once that happened, the process was all but over.

“Everybody was just waiting, twiddling their thumbs until those guys made their decision,” Frye said Friday, a day after signing a five-year, $30 million deal to remain with the Suns.

“Phoenix was adamant about getting a deal done and if you want me that bad and I want to come back that bad, there’s nothing wrong with that so we just worked it out.”

Phoenix lost one of biggest names in a monster free-agent class when Stoudemire agreed to a five-year contract worth about $100 million with the New York Knicks. The Suns were still able to get a little something out of it, working a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks that gave them millions of dollars from a trade exception.

A portion of that money was used to sign Hakim Warrick.

The Suns agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal with Warrick last week after it became apparent Stoudemire wouldn’t be returning. Warrick officially joined the Suns on Friday after a sign-and-trade deal with Chicago that sent Phoenix’s second-round draft pick in 2011 to the Bulls.

An athletic, 6-foot-9 finisher, Warrick has averaged 10.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in five seasons since being taken with the 19th overall pick of the 2005 NBA draft by Memphis.

While he won’t fully replace Stoudemire, a five-time All Star, Warrick will at least take away some of the sting of losing one of the team’s best players.

“Hakim is a player we have watched perform well against us for years,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “He is a long, athletic player who runs the floor and finishes well. We feel, given the opportunity, and playing alongside veterans like Steve Nash and Grant Hill, he can be a productive member of our rotation.”

Still, losing Stoudemire will be tough to overcome.

Nash can still dominate games and is dynamic as ever, but turns 37 during the upcoming season after battling through injuries the early part of last year. Hill, while still steady, hits 38 just before the season starts and has seen his scoring average dip in each of his three seasons in Phoenix.

Jason Richardson and Leandro Barbosa are back _ at least for now _ and Frye developed into a dead-aim 3-point shooter his first season with the Suns, but the rest of the roster is mostly filled with talented-but-relatively-inexperienced players who’ll need to fill bigger roles in 2010-11.

Of course, the Suns weren’t picked to do much of anything last season and went to the Western Conference finals, so don’t count them out just yet, even without Stoudemire.

“We lose a great guy who’s been great for the Suns, but at the same time I think we’ve got some guys who people kind of don’t pay attention to and those are the types of guys who are the most dangerous,” Frye said. “What do you expect from us? Probably nothing, but anything past nothing and we’re going to be successful, like we did last year. We like being underdogs.”

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