SALT LAKE CITY — A few fans still wear BYU replica jerseys when Jimmer Fredette returns to Utah. They still occasionally call for their coach to put him in. But just like Tebowing, Jimmermania is finally quieting down.
The media contingent waiting for him after warm-ups Monday at EnergySolutions Arena consisted of one. Fredette wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a relief, but clearly he wasn’t disappointed.
“Yeah. No, I mean it’s definitely good, but I just try to focus, come in play to the best of my ability,” Fredette diplomatically said. “Hopefully we can get all distractions behind and get out and play and have a good time and get a win.”
As the distractions subside, his situation has stabilized slightly with the Sacramento Kings. He’s in the rotation as a backup point guard. Before that he was No. 3, but a trade that sent Greivis Vasquez to Toronto helped him slide into more consistent minutes.
“It’s been helpful. I’ve been able to play every game,” he said.
Every game lately, that is. Earlier this season, he went five games without shedding his warm-ups.
“Even though it’s not a ton minutes, you still have that rhythm, you know how aggressive you need to be when you get on the floor and how long you’re going to play, so I feel I’ve done a pretty good job with my role and the minutes I’ve had.”
The minutes he’s had.
That’s always been the problem, hasn’t it?
Jimmer has been Jimmered by his own fame.
Living up to your own legend is tough work, especially when you’re a wait-your-turn guy. Fredette’s return on Monday was his second this season. The first was in a Kings’ win on Dec. 7. He never left the bench. On Monday he finished with eight points in a season-high 19 minutes. It wasn’t enough to hold off a 106-99 Jazz win. He was 0-for-3 from the arc, but made half his eight shots.
Lately things have improved for Fredette. Coach Mike Malone has used him more consistently than predecessor Keith Smart, as Fredette got double-digit minutes in 10 consecutive games. Now he’s on a four-game streak.
On Monday he checked in at the start of the second quarter to a mild cheer, as well as mild boos, from a mildly interested crowd. A smattering of boos greeted him whenever he touched the ball, a rattle of cheers arose when he scored.
Unless the game is in Provo, Fredette always divides the house.
He was in down the stretch, when they trailed by as many as 20. They needed a flurry of points — his strong suit — late in the game, but it never happened. Still, he is averaging career highs in field goal and 3-point percentages.
When he was drafted in 2011, there were high hopes he would be a scoring phenomenon. But he has proven ill-equipped to handle many guards or consistently find his comfort zone. His name appeared yet again in trade rumors recently, this time regarding Denver’s Andre Miller. Which raises the question: Is it Sacramento or Jimmer with the problem?
“I feel good about how I’ve been playing. I wish I could play more but that’s something you don’t worry about,” he said. “You just go out and play the minutes you have and help your teammates best you can.”
A move to somewhere else would give Fredette a fresh look and probably more confidence, but not more quickness or size. Nor will it help him get off shots.
But as a No. 1 floor leader?
It won’t happen, in Sacramento or anywhere else.
Some say the trouble lies with the Kings’ coaches and front office. Maybe. But they aren’t alone in their assessment of Fredette as a role player. He was the 10th pick in a shallow 2011 draft. A source close to the Jazz says they wouldn’t have picked him even if he had been available with the 12th pick.
Either way, Fredette needs a change of scenery, and he’ll likely get it since he’s a free agent next summer. But that won’t drastically alter the picture.
“He’s played well lately, but the one thing that hurt him, and the whole team, is turnovers,” said coach Mike Malone. “He has to value the ball at a high level.”
Turnovers, defense, trouble getting open the story doesn’t change. Fredette is in an uneasy place.
But he can shoot.
The question is whether more shots will ever come his way.
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