Jimmer Fredette had disappointment dripping all over his face.
The scene was the immediate aftermath of BYU’s loss to Florida in the NCAA Tournament 16 months ago, Fredette’s final college game. He scored 32 points, but was inefficient in the effort, making just 3 of 15 3-point attempts and 11 of 29 shots overall.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to,” he said that night. “I just didn’t make some shots at the end.”
Standing nearby, Fredette’s teammate Logan Magnusson said: “It’s one of the phenomenons of basketball. Sometimes shots go, sometimes they don’t.”
Flash ahead to this past week, when Fredette played for the Sacramento Kings’ entry in the Las Vegas Summer League, where one of basketball’s phenomena continued to plague him.
In five games, Fredette hit 24 of 67 shots and just 7 of 32 from beyond the arc.
During that span, he said: “With good shooters, you just keep shooting the ball. I knew they’d start falling eventually.”
Well, they did and they didn’t.
Fredette had three horrible shooting nights — 2-for-11, 3-for-11, 5-for-17 — mixed with two good ones — 10-for-21 and 4-for-7. He got 31 points against the Rockets’ entry in the third game, and 19 points in the finale against Boston, which might have been his best overall showing. In that game, he flushed two of three 3-pointers, had five assists and made 9 of 10 free throws.
Kings coach Keith Smart told The Sacramento Bee he saw advancement in Fredette’s game over the course of the week: “[He was] trying to be a player that maybe he’s not right now. Trying to run a basketball team, but forgetting about who he really is. So, I thought, later on, as the games progressed, he was able to be a little more assertive. He was able to try and make plays for himself, and because he was trying to make plays for himself, it opened up things for other people as well.”
Meanwhile, Kings assistant coach Alex English said this: “Jimmer was more aggressive. He shot the ball a little better and he ran the point guard position. He realizes and understands he’s got a lot of work to do in that position.”
It’s complicated being Jimmer Fredette these days.
What was once so easy for him — running BYU’s offense, which mostly consisted of him finding his own shot — is now anything but easy with the Kings. Or even getting an opportunity to run it.
Smart wants Jimmer to be himself, to look for his shot, but he also wants him, as English said, to facilitate a team full of shoot-first players who respect their own games much more than they respect Fredette’s.
Good luck with that.
Part of the problem is Fredette’s fault. He rarely looked comfortable or confident during his rookie season, and he acquiesced a lot. Yeah, the Kings didn’t help, switching coaches in mid-flight from a mentor who appeared to want to groom him to one who confused him. Toss a hesitant rookie into the mix with Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia and Isaiah Thomas, add in DeMarcus Cousins, and let’s just say the ball wasn’t going to be landing back in Fredette’s hands with any sort of consistency.
Now, with the Kings signing Aaron Brooks, which pushes Fredette to the third option at the point, there’s no way to see a promising future for the guard in Sacramento. Not that there ever was one.
In and of itself, nobody seems sure of Fredette’s NBA abilities. Opinions on that are splintered. Some believe he’s a point guard, some say he’s a two-guard trapped in a point guard’s dimensions, some say he can be a starter, some say he’s a rotation player, some say his need to dominate the ball doesn’t translate, some say his defensive liabilities will never allow him to stay on the court, some say he can’t play at all.
One thing is certain: With so many guys looking for their own shots, with so many undisciplined ball-stoppers on the Kings’ roster, Fredette has no legitimate chance there. That’s obvious, even though the Kings’ future intention to play fast and get out in transition suits Fredette’s game. He’s buried on the bench.
Hitting 39 percent of his shots in his rookie year and 24 of 67 attempts against Summer League competition won’t dig him out.
There are rumors the Kings will move Fredette.
It would be the best thing for him.
But, at some point, sooner not later, the famous former BYU guard has to discover and realize for himself who he is and what he can do, and then actualize it. He has to find his confidence again. In the NBA, a shooter who hesitates to shoot because he’s intimidated by his teammates or his opponents is a dead man.
Fredette has his limitations, but it’s too early to call him a bust. The truth is, he can shoot … accurately, even. And, fickle phenomena of basketball or not, shooters make places for themselves — and good money — in the NBA.
“I’m just going to keep being aggressive, no matter what, whether the shots are falling or not,” he said. “Keep being aggressive, have a short-term memory, just keep playing hard.”
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.