SACRAMENTO — It started great for Jimmer Fredette but the results for the lowly Sacramento Kings remained the same in a 122-93 blowout loss to Denver Wednesday night in Power Balance Pavilion.
In a tune-up for his first professional return to Utah for a date with the Utah Jazz Saturday in Energy Solutions Arena, Fredette started at the point and played 14 minutes straight for the Kings. He ended up finishing as Sacramento's leading scorer with 19, his third-straight double-figure game.
But the Kings, one of the worst, if not the sorriest team in the league, couldn't stop the Nuggets and struggled to score on a ton of empty possesions while yielding to Denver in the paint all night.
"This isn't how you want to play at home, we have to protect our own court," said Fredette.
"We need to work harder, play better defense and become a better team, it doesn't all happen at once."
Fredette got off to a great start, knocking down a fade-away jumper to beat the shot clock on the first Kings' possession of the game. He backed that with a 3-pointer and nailed another a few minutes later and had a steal of an inbounds pass by Andre Miller.
But big plays for Fredette and the Kings were few and far between and Fredette owned part of the Kings' serious issues on transition defense — even though it is tough to stop a 2 on 1 or 3 on 1 when you are the 1.
Fredette did not come out of the game until two minutes into the second quarter. When he returned to the game, Isaiah Thomas took over the point and Fredette slid to the two guard spot.
The two rookies, Thomas and Fredette combined for 35 points on 12 of 23 shooting.
The ugly part was Denver outscoring Sacramento 92-40 in the paint, the worst such beating for the Kings since that stat was created.
When Fredette was on the court, it appeared the Kings had better ball movement and even tried on numerous times to run the pick and roll with mild success. But the Kings are not a polished team and struggles with consistency.
"We are not a team but a collection of players right now," said Kings coach Keith Smart.
When Fredette was in the game, Denver's defense knew where he was, doubling him often, trying to get the ball out of his hands.
And, like King fans have seen all season, Fredette is often waving, open for the ball as he watched DeMarcus Cousins (17 points) do something extremely unintelligent with the basketball, like a turnover pass, weak outside shot or futile drive that is doomed before he takes off. A times, Tyreke Evans (4 of 13 for 12 points) did the same.
At several points in the game, I heard a King fan or two yell, "Jimmer, take over."
Fredette came into Wednesday's game fresh off a 13-point performance in 21 minutes at Portland. That game followed his best regular season game, a 20-point performance at Memphis in which he made 5 of 7 from the field, 3 of 4 from distance.
On Wednesday, Fredette hit 6 of 13 from the field, 5 of 8 from distance, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal and a turnover.
Until Wednesday, the Kings had been at Power Balance Pavilion just one other time in the past 10 games.
When Fredette first appeared on the Kings floor, he had plenty of the eager "Jimmer" fans in the seats show their pleasure that he'd come to Sacramento. I thought Fredette got the loudest crowd reaction when starters were announced Wednesday.
Still, Kings spokesman Devin Blankenship said Fredette fans have been vocal everywhere Sacramento has gone. Most NBA teams try and find a marketing tool to move tickets and try to draw out fans for any reason and Fredette has had his share of Mormon Nights, BYU Alumni and Jimmer Nights where teams have pushed special ticket prices to lure in new faces.
This happened on Monday at Portland where nearly a thousand BYU fans appeared and made it known who they wanted in the game and shooting the ball.
"In Memphis, he had a following. When he hit back-to-back 3-pointers, you could feel a buzz in the arena, like people wanted him to hit another. I was running some stat sheets around at the time, but you could tell there was some anticipating there that he do something," said Blankenship.
"I think, for Jimmer, he's just fading into an NBA season and he's a player trying to make his way."
The Kings seek a leader and scream for some kind of chemistry.
That Fredette got to start on Wednesday bodes well for the former Cougar All-American to have a similar role Saturday against the Jazz.
His homecoming, albeit with a struggling team and issues of his own as part of it, might be futile against Utah, but it is what it is and he'll find plenty of folks who would welcome him at the Jazz nest any time.
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