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Jimmer returns Friday, but will he play against Jazz?

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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sacramento's Jimmer Fredette shoots the ball in the first quarter of game against the Utah Jazz Saturday at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. The Jazz downed the Kings, 96-93.

By Steve Luhm

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Nov 22 2012 03:45PM
Updated Mar 6, 2013 11:33PM

Unless the Sacramento Kings’ rotation changes overnight, Jimmer Fredette’s third professional visit to Utah isn’t likely to create the same buzz as the first two.

Fredette, the wildly popular former BYU star, returns to EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night when the Jazz battle the Kings.

The big question:

Will Fredette get significant minutes or will he continue to get only limited playing time from Sacramento coach Keith Smart?

In the Kings’ 113-97 win over the Lakers on Wednesday, Fredette finished with a seldom-seen line in the box score — 0 minutes, 1 assist. He played the final 7.7 seconds of the first half.

Officially, Fredette has played 17 minutes in the Kings’ last three games against Atlanta, Brooklyn and the Lakers.

While he mostly watched, the Kings are 3-8 this season, running their two-year record with Fredette to 25-52.

Smart, the Kings’ fifth head coach since 2006-07 and Fredette’s second, has praised his young player’s willingness to be patient and contribute when asked to do so.

After he scored 12 points in 15 minutes during a 105-103 win over Detroit, Smart told reporters Fredette "stays ready all the time" and is the type of player "you’ve got to have as your team is growing."

Fredette has produced other big games this season.

He scored 18 points in a 103-90 loss to the Lakers, and he finished with 10 in a season-high 25 minutes in a 103-86 loss to Portland.

Still, Fredette is playing half as much as he did as a rookie, when he averaged 7.6 points in 18.6 minutes.

This year, Fredette averages 6.1 points in only 9.1 minutes, although his shooting percentage has jumped from .386 to .512.

Fredette’s minutes malady can be partially explained by the presence of Aaron Brooks.

Signed by the Kings during the offseason, Brooks joins second-year player Isaiah Thomas as Smart’s primary point guards.

Throw in veteran Tyreke Evans, who can also play the position, and Fredette often finds himself at the back of the line when it comes to playing time.

Because of the logjam, Fredette’s season has seemingly evolved into another when patience will be a necessity.

"I didn’t come in expecting that I was going to play huge minutes right away," Fredette said before a game in Utah last year.

"It’s about buying your time, working as hard as you can and getting the trust of your coaching staff and teammates, and eventually things will turn."

Perhaps Fredette’s season will turn around against the Jazz.

In his first game against them last year, he started, played 31 minutes and finished with 14 points.

Beyond his numbers, Fredette created the kind of electricity in EnergySolutions Arena that was typical of the Marriott Center during his collegiate career at BYU.

"It was a great atmosphere," said Jazz veteran Earl Watson. "It was like college. I thought I had on a Utah Utes jersey. It was like Utes versus BYU."

Also a rookie at the time, Alec Burks said: "I’ve never seen anything like that. That’s crazy the way he gets that recognition. I thought Jay-Z or someone had walked up, but it was just Jimmer."

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is pulling for Fredette — just not Friday night.

"He can make shots, we know that," Corbin said. "... [But] he’s on a team that’s loaded at his position.

"He’s a good fella. I really enjoyed the visit we had for the pre-draft, I enjoy who he is and we wish him well. He’s trying to find his way in this league."

The Tribune’s Bill Oram contributed to this story.

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