SALT LAKE CITY – The lookout man in the parking lot gave me the once-over as I walked past, just to make sure. Same for the security guy at the front door to Zions Bank Basketball Center. Beyond at a desk was a Jazz PR staffer with a sign-in sheet.
All they wanted was my name, organization, birth date, fingerprint, blood type, PIN, Social Security number, pant size and super secret pass code (Jimmerrocks!).
I was in.
A backstage pass to The Jimmer Show 2.0.
OK, it wasn't exactly backstage. The double doors to the practice floor were locked, which is normal for a pre-draft workout. But for most of the 45-minute wait, there were team staffers eyeballing the doors from both inside and outside. That isn't always the case.
But it's not every day Jimmer Fredette returns, either.
The last time Fredette played basketball in Utah there were 23,000 BYU fans at the Marriott Center, cheering the Cougars in their final home game. This time it only felt that way. Three dozen coaches, scouts and associates were in the grandstands to watch him work out for the Jazz on Wednesday. Among them: Weber State coach Randy Rahe, BYU coach Dave Rose, Jazz CEO Greg Miller, former Louisiana Tech coach Kerry Rupp and ex-Jazz coach Frank Layden.
There were around 45 VIP fans in a glassed-in reception room above the court. After the doors opened, about the same number of media members raced to get within earshot of Fredette.
Just your average pre-draft workout, right?
Applauding Jimmer has become a tradition in Utah. Even many Ute fans, stung by his 47-point game in the Huntsman Center last winter, admit the man can play. He was the national Player of the Year.
Furthermore, he's articulate, polite, modest, confident and (eat your heart out Kyle Korver) heartthrob cute.
"We saw somebody who was — you know, the Dove commercial — comfortable in his own skin," said Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor. "We really liked the maturity level he had. We think he knows who he is. Some guys walk in and we say, 'Who do you remind yourself of?' Shaq, and the guy's 185 pounds. You say, I'm not sure he gets it. I think (Fredette) knows who he is and what he wants."
This much is known about Fredette's invitation-only workout at ZBBC, which included some one-on-one against UConn's Walker: He looked good. He and others in attendance said he shot well. Jazz coach Ty Corbin said Fredette was "quicker than I thought he was."
It is also known that while he has improved on defense, it still isn't his forte. That's a legitimate concern. A common but false belief is that nobody plays defense in the NBA. What is true is that the best way ruin your own high-scoring night is to let the player you're guarding do the same. The prospect of Fredette guarding Deron Williams or Chris Paul at the point, or Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant at shooting guard, is spooky.
At the same time, his stock seems to be rising. Some are saying the Jazz might not have the option at No. 12 to pick Fredette; he could already be gone.
Either way, Fredette did what he always does, calmly taking care of business. When he stepped onto the court for interviews, he was mobbed. It was crowded and pushy and sweaty and entirely predictable.
"I knew it was going to happen," Fredette told the media. "I knew the people are very, very interested about this workout, and wanted to know about it, and see how things went, so I'm not surprised at all. I'm glad you (media) guys came, though."
He didn't look the least bit ruffled, referring to the media stampede as "just part of your day."
Not everybody's day.
But it certainly is in Jimmerworld.
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