I'm doing OK. I'm trying to get better every single game. It's an adjustment. How I played last year and everything, I knew it would be. —Jimmer Fredette
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Growing pains.
No matter how it is classified, Jimmer Fredette is going through an adjustment period in the NBA like so many rookies before him.
The Sacramento Kings' rookie guard is averaging 21 points less than he did last year as the Brigham Young University star who won the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards to ignite Jimmer Mania.
Of course, Fredette has a new role in the NBA. He isn't starting, takes significantly fewer shots and is playing less than half a game each night out.
"He's making a gigantic adjustment," said Kings coach Keith Smart. "People have to understand that's what he's making. He went from a guy who had the ball in his hands and could shoot the ball as many times as he wanted, to now, where he has to blend in with everyone else. He's going through what a lot of rookies have gone through."
Nevertheless, Fredette is embracing the adjustments and is trying to do his part to make the Kings better.
"I'm doing OK," Fredette said. "I'm trying to get better every single game. It's an adjustment. How I played last year and everything, I knew it would be.
My objective was to come in and do whatever it was to help the team get wins."
That unselfishness isn't lost on teammate Isaiah Thomas, a rookie out of the University of Washington.
"He doesn't care about the fame, he doesn't care about himself. He's worried about others, trying to help others," Thomas said. "He's a great, great basketball player … a helluva shooter. I feel like every time he shoots it, the ball is going in.
"He's learning just like me. We're learning different things, but at the same time we're going through the same kind of things and same types of situations out on the court. We're both trying to work extremely hard and become better players."
Through 33 games, Fredette is averaging 8 points per game while logging 20.7 minutes per contest. The 6-foot-2 Fredette is only shooting 37.5 percent from the field but has been his usual reliable self at the line, making 88.9 percent of his attempts.
"I think everyone can't put pressure on him to perform at the level he just came out of college performing. It's going to be an adjustment in the NBA, and he's going to get better," Smart said.
Like many rookies, the biggest challenge for Fredette has been on defense. The 10th pick in the first round has been a focal point of attack by opposing coaches.
"As he goes in the game, teams right away try to take advantage of him," Smart said. "I would do the same thing against any young rookie that isn't ready to play in the NBA level right now. Sometimes he's there, being in the right position and doing the right things. As he grows and understands that you can be a little more physical, especially guards … guards can be a little more physical and get away with a lot of things."
And not be afraid to pick up a foul.
"He still has to get away from that mentality that he's going to pick up a foul," Smart said. "As he establishes himself in the NBA as an aggressive player on defense, that label will start to erase."
Smart has been emphasizing position defense to all of his players, not just Fredette.
"We have problems with all of our guys defending the point of attack," Smart said. "If a guy can keep a guy in front of him, that helps a whole lot where we're not relying on (DeMarcus) Cousins and our other bigs to be there to take a charge and pick up a potential foul."
Fredette's first performance against Utah didn't increase his playing time Tuesday night. Fredette had one of his better scoring games against the Jazz on Jan. 28, making three 3-pointers and finishing with 14 points — one of seven double-digit outputs by the rookie.
Smart hinted at a tighter substitution pattern during the All-Star break, and Fredette's playing time was reduced against the Jazz.
Fredette stayed on the bench throughout the first quarter but took starting point guard Thomas' place with 11:11 left in the second period. After a slow start with several turnovers and trouble recognizing a double team along the midcourt sideline, Fredette settled down. With Thomas up off the bench, Fredette drilled a 3 from the top of the key, then fed Chuck Hayes for a layup to pull the Kings within 36-35 midway throughout the quarter. Before his 81/2-minute playing stint ended, Fredette also scored a transition layup. His first-half stat line read five points and two assists.
Fredette remained on the bench for the entire second half of the Kings' 103-96 victory, but he stayed engaged and repeatedly applauded his teammates' baskets.
Despite that limited role, Fredette is confident of his future in the game
"The game has been slowing down for me, and I'll continue to get better," Fredette said.