Jimmer Fredette still just another NBA rookie
Published: January 29, 2012 11:33PM
Updated: February 28, 2012 04:43PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Sacramento's Jimmer Fredette in the first half of game Saturday against the Utah Jazz at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. The Jazz downed the Kings, 96-93.

He almost gave them a show they never would have forgotten.

Then again, the sight of Jimmer Fredette air-balling the Sacramento Kings’ final shot of the game in their loss to the Utah Jazz might be unforgettable itself. The former BYU superstar will likely be kicking himself for missing the big shot — a contested 25-footer with five seconds left. Many in the crowd were holding their breath, waiting for the ball to sink through the net.

For Kings coach Keith Smart, it’s all a part of the process.

“We have a first-year player in a situation trying to do the right thing, and it’s a whole different story if he made that shot,” Smart said. “But it’s something that you learn and you grow from here. Now understand, later on, when you have more time on the clock to maybe make a play where you don’t need a 3.”

If the game had been in Provo instead of Salt Lake City, and if Fredette had been playing for the Cougars instead of the Kings, no one could fault him for taking that shot.

But in the NBA, Jimmer’s famous name doesn’t carry as much weight. He’s still a rookie NBA player on a struggling team, and he’s still learning the game. The game’s final play is just the latest example: His future may still be bright, but he still has a lot of development ahead of him.

So much has changed: He’s no longer the focal point of the offense. Tyreke Evans — who scored 31 in the game — has earned that mantle. Smart subbed Fredette in and out of the game several times before the final buzzer, and the rookie is still getting used to it.

“Especially being a rookie, you’re not gonna get too many calls, and that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “Guys are physical and strong, and I just try to play through it.”

Play through it, he has, and he’s getting some good returns.

In the past four games — including against Utah ­— he’s gone 14-for-23 from 3-point range, which is hot for any NBA player. He showed some flashes, at times driving into the lane for layups.

Smart knows that the game will come to Fredette. To Utahns, he’s Jimmer: It was apparent as the crowd cheered and jeered his every move. To the NBA, he’s still a rookie.

“Our league is promoting young stars, and he’s able to handle that in a very humble way,” Smart said. “He’s not out of the woods yet, because he’s got a difficult road. But there’s a positive uptick to his game.”