Though no longer the best player on the court, as he usually was last season, it was a small talking point to Jazz/BYU fans. For a lot of people, this was as close to hoops heaven as it gets. The Jazz plus Jimmer? That's like chocolate on a Twinkie.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Jimmer Reloaded Tour arrived at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, guaranteed to draw a crowd. The love (and some loathing) still flows in Utah.
Never mind Jimmer Fredette is having a bumpy start to his pro career. Utah is where the spaceship was launched. Why should it be any different a year later?
Fredette nearly brought Jimmermadness back in a 96-93 Sacramento loss to the Jazz. But as it turned out, the former BYU All-America finished the night with an air ball: a 25-foot try that landed short amid allegations of an Earl Watson foul. True to form, Fredette avoided controversy, choosing instead to say there was "contact possibly, maybe not, but the ball didn't go in, that's what happened."
So it was, things continued as they have all year for Fredette, with mixed results. He was booed as well as cheered. He was in the game and out.
This much was obvious from his first NBA game at ESA: He isn't a ready-mix formula.
It will take awhile for him to figure out just where he fits into this fast new league in which he is playing.
While Fredette admits he has been up and down, the crowd seemed as conflicted as anyone. He received a mishmash of boos and cheers, though it was heavier on the cheers during introductions. Once the game began, much of the noise was of the razzing variety. Apparently not everyone in Salt Lake is a Jimmermaniac.
Still, they boo whenever Kobe Bryant touches the ball, too.
So Fredette is in good company.
His game was as complicated as the crowd. He missed four of his first five shots and nearly lost the dribble on one play, fell out of bounds with the ball on another. He got stuffed on a couple of driving shots, clanged a 3-pointer and double-clutched a shot that didn't get to the rim. His first basket didn't arrive until late in the first quarter.
Still, he made two 3-pointers in the first half, just one fewer than the entire Jazz team. He did respectably on the catch-and-shoot en route to a 14-point night. Yet he sat out all but the final seconds of the fourth quarter. In the final minute, Kings coach Keith Smart subbed him back in, then took him out, then put him back in.
Was it something he said?
With 4.2 seconds left and the Jazz up by two, Fredette launched his trey, which was contested by a semi-guilty-looking Earl Watson.
"Like I told him in the locker room, sometimes you don't need the game-winner. Sometimes you may need just a two," Smart pointed out.
Fredette certainly hasn't taken the league by storm, nor did he expect to. In college he took a lot of shots, as many as he wanted, and the numbers were staggering. In the pros he's trying to learn how to do more with less.
In this economy, who isn't?
Last year he took 21 shots a game and averaged 36 minutes; this year in the pros, eight shots and 22 minutes. Now he's coming off and on the bench.
"It's definitely tough, but you have be ready, know whatever coach wants and when, and you have be ready and prepared for it. I tried to do the best I could," he said.
None of that discouraged Fredette fans who showed up. Different uniform, different circumstances. Yet his personality hasn't changed.
Just a nice guy trying to kill you with the crossover and impale you with the pull-up.
Though no longer the best player on the court, as he usually was last season, it was a small talking point to Jazz/BYU fans. For a lot of people, this was as close to hoops heaven as it gets. The Jazz plus Jimmer?
That's like chocolate on a Twinkie.
But the Kings coach didn't seem as easy to please, saying Fredette is still adjusting to the speed and size of the league, as well as the demands of playing defense.
Asked what areas Fredette needs to work on, Smart joked, "He's just too popular. No, I just think that people didn't understand that when a young man comes from college into NBA, what he has go through. What you saw him do in college was fantastic, but what he's going to face in NBA is different animal that he never faced before."
He continued, "I just felt when I got chance to be around him. ... I thought his skills were going to put him in position to where can become a point guard in the NBA."
Not a great point guard. Just a point guard.
Faint praise, upbeat but measured.
Such is life when you're studying at the University of Growth and Hard Knocks.