Utah Jazz: Ex-BYU star Jimmer Fredette learns how to play NBA game
Jimmer Fredette is finding comfort in the chaos of the NBA.
First, there was a bitter lockout that lasted nearly five months and prevented the former Brigham Young University standout guard from even speaking with Sacramento's front-office executives during the work stoppage. Then came the unexpected firing of former Kings coach Paul Westphal, just eight games into Fredette's rookie season.
Both made an impact. Neither was ideal. And less than two months into his professional career, Fredette's perspective on life has already been altered.
"It's been very, very interesting," said Fredette, who's averaging 8.5 points, 2.1 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 22.7 minutes. "It's definitely not the normal way to go about it."
Jimmer's still Jimmer, though. He sounded upbeat and energetic Thursday during an interview. His shot is falling. His confidence is rising. And at the same time a long-struggling Sacramento (6-13) franchise is flailing through another drama-filled season, Fredette is discovering peace on the hardwood.
In fact, he's found the best groove of his rookie campaign as the Kings second-worst in the Western Conference, losers of 7 of 10 have alternately rebuilt and fallen apart. Sacramento was blown out by 29 points Wednesday during a home loss to Denver. But Fredette displayed pure first-year magic, scoring a team-high 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting and drilling 5 of 8 3-pointers.
"He's a shooter," Dallas forward Shawn Marion said. "You've got to guard him three feet behind the 3-point line. He can shoot that thing."
Especially during the past three games. Firing holes through any remaining questions about whether he'd ever be able to play in the NBA, the No. 10 overall pick during the 2011 draft has averaged 17.3 points while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and a scorching 61.1 percent beyond the arc since last Saturday.
With a thigh injury expected to keep Kings starting shooting guard Marcus Thornton out for at least another week, Fredette's freedom won't end soon.
"I'm starting to feel a lot better the last week and a half," said the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Fredette. "Playing a lot better, shooting the ball better and just getting more comfortable with the NBA game that's something I continue to work on every single day."
A crucial link to Fredette's development will be consistency, and even the best young players struggle to find middle ground. Second-year Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is still searching for a straight road, 19 months after becoming the No. 9 overall pick in 2010.
"I think it's just adjusting to a new team. You go from kind of being the man at your college to a team full of people who are just like that," said Hayward, who carried Butler to the 2010 NCAA championship game. "That's the hard part, adjusting to that mentally. Knowing when to take your shot, when to be aggressive, when not to be. That's probably the most difficult part of it."
Fredette never hesitated at BYU. He was always at least one step ahead of the competition, drawing double- and triple-teams as he lifted the 2010-11 Cougars to the Sweet 16.
As an NBA rookie, Fredette's been forced to play within the Kings' retooled offense, adjusting to everything from the speed and length of defenders to an emphasis on screen-and-roll sets.
The image of Jimmer driving the lane, hugging the ball and drawing a hard foul as college defenses collapsed has been erased. He averaged 7.6 free-throw attempts and shot 89.4 percent from the line during his senior season for the Cougars. He's only getting to the stripe an average of 1.3 times for Sacramento, leaving him to once again rely on the long-range touch that made him an Internet phenomenon at BYU.
Nineteen games into his rookie season, Fredette's shot still hasn't failed him. It lifted him from Glen Falls, N.Y., to Provo, transforming him into the most popular player in Cougars history. It then proved a legion of critics wrong, when Sacramento completed a draft-day deal to pull him out of the green room and pick him in the lottery. And Fredette's magic touch will have its official pro unveiling Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena, when the Jazz host the Kings.
Jimmer's still Jimmer. He's just in the NBA now, learning how to make the game work for him.
"It'll be a lot of fun to play in front of those fans I played in front of for the last four years ... they're still passionate and I appreciate all the support they've given me," Fredette said. "I just hope to be able to have a good game and hopefully our team will be able to win."
Steve Luhm contributed reporting.
Check The Tribune's Jazz Notes blog at sltrib.com/blogs/jazznotes for exclusive news, interviews, video and analysis.
Fredette said fans will get to see a different and unique personal side of him in an upcoming DVD entitled "The Making of Jimmer." Fredette on the film: "It's an 80-minute video of myself growing up. Playing in the small town of Glen Falls to college and â¦ making it to the NBA and making your dreams come true." He added: "It's a great story to show that anybody can do it if they put their mind to it. It doesn't matter where you're from or what size you are or where you play basketball."
Position • Guard Year • Rookie
Vitals • 6-foot-2, 195 pounds
Stats • 8.5 pts, 2.1 ast, 1.4 reb, 36.3 FG pct, 36.5 3pt pct
Draft • No. 10 overall in 2011
College • BYU Age • 22
Fredette's past three games:
M FG 3pt Pt
Wed. vs. Denver 36 6-13 5-8 19
Mon. at Portland 21 5-7 3-4 13
Jan. 21 at Memphis 33 5-13 3-6 20
Jimmer and the Jazz
Fredette on whether Utah tried to move up in the draft to take him with its second lottery pick: "I'm not exactly sure how close they were to moving up. I heard rumors about it, but I never know exactly what's going on on draft day. I'm not behind the scenes. I'm just waiting to hear my name called. I heard the possibility of that."