Dick Harmon: Jimmer Fredette patiently taking it a step at a time to regain place in the NBA
Saquan Stimpson, AP
So, Jimmer Fredette is back in the NBA.
Yes, it is just a 10-day contract with the New York Knicks.
No, it is not an earth-shattering piece of news; it doesn’t guarantee that he’s returning to the league with a position, a roster spot or a role heading into the second half of the NBA season. He will still receive plenty of criticism and pigeon-holing from detractors that somehow feel the need to discredit his ability and talent. That crowd isn’t going away. This isn’t the silver bullet that silences his haters.
But if you take it for what it is, this is a big deal for Fredette. It is the culmination of a simple goal he set for himself this fall when the New Orleans Pelicans released him and sent him searching for a place to land.
Fredette had plenty of chances to make some serious coin in Europe — just walk away from his NBA dream — take another route and get on with his basketball career. That still may be on his horizon, but this fall, it was not an option for the 2011 first-round pick.
And this is where I give Fredette credit.
He believed he could play in NBA arenas again and he absolutely meant this season. He accepted a roster spot in the NBA’s D-League. He did it with humility, to accept “developmental coaching,” and did so with a positive attitude and hunger. He was driven to prove things, and in order to do that, he knew he had to take whatever role given him, excel and show he could help a team in a myriad of ways.
That was his plan. He hit it out of the ballpark. It culminated with being named MVP of the D-League All-Star game. For much of the season in this minor league, Fredette was able to establish himself as a scoring threat and team leader. He found himself in the spotlight as one of the most productive players in that realm.
Playing for the Westchester Knicks, owned by the New York Knicks, Fredette entered an incubator situation. He essentially told the Knicks he would do everything possible to get a chance and they gave it to him, beginning Monday.
For 10 days.
It’s a start.
On Sunday, the New York Times published a story detailing the 26-year-old Fredette’s journey to “play catch up” in his quest to be an NBA player and how tough it has been, as a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, to make his mark. Writer Scott Cacciola found Felipe Lopez, a 41-year-old former basketball prodigy, who also struggled to meet expectations back in his day.
“Your road to success doesn’t always go straight,” Lopez told the Times. “Sometimes you have to hit a couple of bumps to reset yourself and refocus your priorities. So I give him a lot of credit. He devoted himself to this organization, and now he’s trying to use it as a spring.”
After his release from New Orleans, Fredette’s time with Westchester began in November. In three games he averaged 22.3 points, 4.8 assists, and shot 46.5 percent from the field and an impressive 40.5 percent from beyond the arc.
“He’s capable of changing a game,” according to Westchester coach Mike Miller.
Now it’s back to the NBA.
Interim Knicks coach Kurt Rambis may throw him a few minutes here or there. He may carve out a stretch of even more if he’s productive. Or he may just have him called up and not do much with him at all. Fredette has experienced that before with these brief encounters.
“He can obviously shoot the ball,” Rambis told reporters. “That’s what he’s known for. But we can see if he can actually handle the basketball and create shots for himself and create shots for others and work within the team concept. So it will be an adjustment for him. It’s not going to be an easy transition.”
Now the goal is this: Can Fredette deliver more offense to the Knicks than Jose Calderon and Langston Galloway?
That is exactly why Fredette signed up with the D-league: To work on his weaknesses and learn.
We’ll see if he’s made progress and if he earns some trusted playing time.
In the meantime, credit the guy for eating humble pie and submitting himself to hard work and chasing this goal.
As Andre Agassi once said, “What makes something special is not just what you have to gain, but what you feel there is to lose.”
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