People expect Jimmer Fredette to make shots from Tijuana.
It'll be the same come Saturday.
Fredette makes his first appearance in Utah as an NBA player when the Jazz host the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. He comes to town playing as well as he has all season. But while his confidence is rising, Fredette knows the bigger picture is for the Kings to start winning.
"I'm really excited to make my debut in Salt Lake City," Fredette said Monday before a Kings' practice session. It marked one of the few consecutive practice days the struggling, injury-laden Kings have had all season.
"It will be a lot of fun to play in front of those fans who have supported me the last four years and I just hope I'm able to have a good game and we are able to win."
This NBA gig has become a lot tougher for Fredette than it appeared when the Kings obtained him as a lottery pick last summer. First, the NBA lockout prevented full training camps; a settlement gave everyone a compressed schedule; and then Kings coach Paul Westphal got fired just weeks into the season.
For a rookie, that's a lot to digest the first month on the job.
"It's very, very interesting," Fredette said. "It's not the normal way of going about it. The short training schedule and the coaching change is something you don't plan for and it changes your perspective on things. You expect to have the same coach all the time and you have to play through it to get better and stay together with your teammates and get as consistent as you can."
Fredette has struggled with the Kings. The Kings have struggled with themselves. Fredette went through a stretch where his shot wouldn't fall; whether it was his attempt to shoot in the key or launch one of his outside bombs, they didn't drop. His body language read discouragement.
Then came a road game at Memphis on Jan. 21, in which he got 33 minutes in a Kings loss with the game out of reach. He scored 20 points that night, backed it up with 13 points at Portland on Monday and then led the Kings in scoring Wednesday with 19 in a blowout loss at home to Denver.
In that stretch, Fredette made 16 of 33 from the field, 11 of 18 from 3-point land. But the Kings went 0-3.
"The starting two man (Marcus Thornton) is injured right now, so that's the main reason I'm in there. The coach has confidence in me to be able to make plays and score the basketball and do all the things I can on the court. It's great they have confidence in me to start me, and it's been great, but it's mainly because of the injury."
With Thornton out with a thigh contusion, Tyreke Evans moved from point to shooting guard. Fredette started at the point Thursday and moves to the two guard when Evans is out and fellow rookie Isaiah Thomas comes in to man the point.
Fredette believes he's found a groove heading into the Utah game.
"I think so, for sure. I've felt better, shot the ball better and felt more comfortable with the NBA game. It is something I continue to work on every day and I'm getting more comfortable with my teammates and the coaching staff. I feel like I'm getting better."
The Kings just hired Hall of Famer Alex English, the league's 13th all-time leading scorer, and assistant Bobby Jackson has also worked with the former BYU star.
"There's been a joint effort and Bobby has done a great job as have other members of the coaching staff. It's just all about trying to get me to work on the floaters, not try and take it to the basket all the time. What to do in different situations. What to do in the screen and roll and how to read defenses and see what teams are trying to do and how to break it down."
At BYU, Fredette finished his career facing double- and triple-team defenses that were extended to three-quarters or full court to specifically pressure him as a point guard. Still, he led the NCAA in scoring. Many thought Fredette would see more daylight in the NBA where more team talent would prevent such defensive ploys on one player.
"It is different," said Fredette. "There is lot more space in the NBA game and you aren't doubled or tripled on a nightly basis and that's great but you are defended by a quicker, longer and stronger defender.
"It's all about finding your spot, getting into the lane and when you shoot the ball, you have to do it quicker because they react a lot quicker in the NBA. It's something I'm learning. I think I'm doing better the last week and a half and I'm trying to improve every day."
A year ago in Utah, "Jimmertime" was in full bloom and a crazy, intense spotlight followed Fredette around for the remainder of his BYU career to the extent he stopped attending classes on campus.
He says life is less insane now.
"It is more sane for sure. Now you get into a rhythm, know what you are going to do on any given day. The travel is something else. It's been going very, very well and I'm in more of a routine now that the season has started after things being kind of crazy since the draft. I'm just playing the game I love."
Deseret Book will release a DVD this week in conjunction with Fredette's return to Utah. It is entitled "The Making of Jimmer," and features rare family video, action clips and interviews with coaches, players, friends and basketball analysis on his life and career leading up to the NBA draft.
In a sense, he's returned to a region lying in wait to drink of the hype pool all over again.
Many Fredette followers in Utah wonder how close he was to coming to the Jazz, if there was any interest in Utah moving him up in the first round.
He says he doesn't know.
"I'm not exactly sure how close [it came] to moving up. I heard rumors about it but didn't really know what was happening on draft day, just waited for my name to be called. Saturday, he'll be as close to a Jazz uniform as he wants to be.
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