Sacramento, Calif. — The last time Jimmer Fredette felt like this? His freshman year at Brigham Young University.
Fredette's up-and-down rookie season with the Kings bottomed out during a three-game run heading into the NBA All-Star break. While teammate DeMarcus Cousins competed with the league's best first- and second-year players in the Rising Stars Challenge, and rookie Isaiah Thomas entered the layoff as Sacramento's starting point guard, all Fredette could do was get away from the game.
He disappeared for several days in Utah, spending time with his fiancee and family members, then catching up with the Cougars during Senior Night.
"It was very good to be able to do that," Fredette said. "Get your head relaxed and get focused for the second-half of the season. Sometimes you need a little break to be able to get yourself back into things. … It was exciting for me to be able to go out there for a little bit; see a lot of familiar faces and get ready for the second half."
But when Fredette returned to Sacramento for the Kings' shootaround Tuesday morning in preparation for a game against the Jazz, he was still dealing with the same issues that plagued him before his vacation.
The No. 10 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft has recently been a bust. During Fredette's last three games, he's averaged just 3.3 points, 2.6 field-goal attempts and 5.6 minutes. His place in the Kings' rotation has nearly disappeared — Fredette didn't play last Tuesday during a road loss to Miami — and Sacramento coach Keith Smart's embrace of Nellie-ball has the Kings often running a three-guard attack with little room for Fredette.
Thomas starts at point guard, Marcus Thornton's team-leading 18.2 average points have earned him the starting shooting guard role, and former starting point guard Tyreke Evans — the fourth overall pick in 2009 — has evolved into the first-unit small forward. With Evans sometimes running the point for Sacramento's second unit, Fredette's been forced to learn by watching instead of playing.
It's a long fall for the 2010-11 collegiate phenomenon known as just "Jimmer," and Fredette acknowledged he's dealing with a challenge he hasn't faced since his 2007-08 season with the Cougars.
"It's not anything new for me. As far as my freshman year at BYU, it was pretty similar. So it's not a new story or anything," said Fredette, who's averaging 8 points, 1.9 assists and 1.2 rebounds while shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 3-point line in 20.7 minutes. "So you've just got to continue to work hard; find my niche. I know that if I keep doing the right things, things will turn around."
This isn't college, though, and Fredette knows it. Players such as Golden State's Klay Thompson, Utah's Alec Burks, San Antonio's Iman Shumpert, New Jersey's MarShon Brooks, Miami's Norris Cole and Houston's Chandler Parsons were selected after Fredette, while the No. 60 overall pick in 2011 — Thomas — is now higher than Fredette on Sacramento's depth chart.
"It's always challenging to try and come into a new place and fit on to your team the best way you can," Fredette said. "It's tough not having much of a training camp and then having the coaching change in the beginning. You're trying to find your niche with that coach and trying to find the niche with your team and the style of play that you have.
"So, it's definitely been challenging and there's no way around that. But I'm going to definitely continue to work hard — that's the way I always do it. I'm having fun and think that things will turn around and we'll continue to get better, and that's just the way it's going to be."
Fredette said Smart wants him to improve his overall play at the point, while still looking for his shot when open. Fredette has yet to consistently display his passing skills, though, and he's thinking too much while attempting to figure out opposing defenses, instead of simply reacting and firing away.
"It's not anything different with me," Fredette said. "I'm just trying to find the way to do it within the offense and the personnel that we have."
He added: "There's a lot talented players, guards on the roster. On any given night, someone will play better than others and they'll roll with that person most of the time. So that's just the way it is right now."
Thirty-three games into Fredette's rookie season, he's yet to find an NBA rhythm. His brother, TJ, recently used Twitter to question Smart's coaching abilities. And with the Kings stacked in the backcourt, a question whispered on draft night has only grown louder during the past two weeks: Is Sacramento the best long-term fit for Jimmer?
"I definitely think so. I think I can work at a lot of different places, but I definitely think I can make it work here," Fredette said. "This is where I'm at now. I'm really excited to be here, just to be a part of this team and be a part of the organization. I think we're going in the right direction. We'll continue to work hard, and I'll play as hard as I possibly can, and hopefully make a great career here."
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