Dick Harmon: The Kings and I: Jimmer Fredette's trying to make it in the NBA on a young, hungry team
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — What an interesting NBA nest that Jimmer Fredette landed in.
It's the youngest team in the NBA, with an average age of 24. Seven of 14 Kings players are new, and the average experience on the squad is 3.1 years. The Sacramento Kings fans are uncertain if the Kings will even remain in the city.
Their coach, Paul Westphal, got fired just weeks into the season and the new coach, Keith Smart, is expected to be Robert Reed playing the part of the father in the Brady Bunch.
Well, it's not exactly the Bradys.
Fredette came to a team where a lineup of young, anxious, hungry players are jockeying for position and their futures, like pageant contestants throwing elbows before a dressing room mirror.
You get the picture.
It was reported that in an early-season Kings practice, an open rookie Jimmer Fredette motioned for the ball and the dribbler came over and got in his face. Imagine someone being angry that a guy who led 4,446 Division I male basketball players in scoring last season mildly clapped for a pass.
Young teams go through this.
"I have a bunch of alpha males," Smart said. "And a lot of them are putting their spots down. They are trying to say, 'This is my team, this is what I'm doing.'"
The challenge, explains Smart, is to "shorten the gap, close it up, to get them to see it is the team that is important and it is the team that is rising up, and when the team rises up, they all rise up."
To do this, Smart instigated a move to promote chemistry. He asked players to spend time with each another on and off the court, go to a movie, out to dinner, hang with each other's families, get together and watch an NBA game on TV in a family room.
"Then, when a player is being challenged by another teammate, he knows it's not personal. Build chemistry on and off the floor and it becomes a basketball team. Then, when a player is open and a player misses him when he's open, he'll know that player isn't looking him off and he'll go up and acknowledge that and say, 'I missed you that time, I'll get you next time.' That's what we're trying to build."
Smart, a "people person," says that's his strength. It's also his challenge with the Kings, but there's been progress. "All great teams have chemistry and players like each other."
Fredette knows this better than anyone. With all the attention he gets, he is mindful his teammates may be listening. He did it at BYU and now with the Kings. After the NBA draft, Kings publicist Devin Blankenship was very pleased and impressed that when people interviewed Fredette, he quickly tried to include other draftees Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Honeycutt in conversations.
In my opinion, more than anybody on the Kings roster, Fredette understands if he is to make it in the league, he has to be a teammate before anything else. If not, they'll freeze him out.
I saw this Wednesday in the locker room and on the floor when Denver blew the Kings out on their home court.
Thomas, whose locker is one away from Fredette, says Jimmer is a great teammate to him, a fellow novice.
"We're great. He's a great dude. He's a great basketball player but a greater dude. He really doesn't worry about himself, he's a caring teammate."
Thomas has heard fans screaming at Fredette to take shots. He knows he's torn between being a gunner and a passer, between being a teammate and an individual who wants to succeed. For a time more than a week ago, Fredette struggled and appeared to have lost his shot.
Thomas advises Fredette not to feel the heat.
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