You’re always hopeful. Everybody in this league, that’s what their dream is; they want to get back or into the NBA. —Former BYU guard Jimmer Fredette last weekend at the D-League All-Star Game
SALT LAKE CITY — Moments after earning MVP honors for the D-League All-Star Game, Jimmer Fredette told reporters he was optimistic about getting back to the NBA.
“You’re always hopeful,” Fredette said after scoring a record 35 points in the D-League’s midseason showcase contest. “Everybody in this league, that’s what their dream is; they want to get back or into the NBA. That’s what this league is — it’s a developmental league, and I’m no different.”
A week later, Fredette’s ongoing dream — one that’s had rocky moments and setbacks — appears on the verge of being realized again.
The New York Knicks plan on signing the former BYU star to a 10-day contract on Monday, ESPN first reported.
Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis said the team hopes to “integrate him” in some way that would be beneficial for the struggling squad.
"He obviously can shoot the basketball; that's what he's known for," Rambis told ESPN. "We've got to see if he can actually handle the basketball and be able to create shots for himself and create shots for others within the team concept, so it will be an adjustment for him.”
Fredette has lit the D-League up for the Knicks’ affiliate in Westchester, averaging 22.3 points, 4.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds. He’s shot 41 percent from 3-point range.
The 2011 NCAA Player of the Year shrugged off a question about whether last Saturday’s All-Star Game provided validation after he’d been relegated to the D-League following a shaky NBA career that included stops in Sacramento, Chicago, New Orleans and San Antonio (for fall camp) in his first four years.
“Every single night I try to go out there and try to play the best that I can — (so) not necessarily validation, but just to show people I can play still,” Fredette said. “Hopefully, people are able to see that and (I can) just go out and give an effort every single night.”
Fredette said his agent kept in daily contact with NBA teams, trying to find a spot that would work for a player with a unique shooting ability. Having already pocketed $8-plus million in his career, the former NCAA scoring champ figured it would be worth staying in the D-League for another shot at the NBA rather than heading over to Europe.
“You’ve just got to stay grounded,” Fredette said, “keep your head down, keep pushing and when someone does call and wants you, be ready for your opportunity.”
Fredette, a lottery pick in 2011, has averaged 6.0 points on 41.1 percent shooting (38.0 percent from 3-point range) during his NBA career. His most recent stint was a 10-day contract with New Orleans earlier this season.
The 6-foot-2 playmaker averaged more than seven points in his first two seasons with the Kings. However, he has never found a consistent role or rhythm reflective of a guy who swept the sports world with Jimmermania at the end of his college career.
In an effort to impress NBA front offices, Fredette said he’s been focusing on proving that he’s not just a sharpshooter. He’s tried to improve his passing, interior floating game, pull-up jumpers and, yes, his defense. It’s been important for him to show that he can play within a defensive system.
“And,” he added, “go out there and be aggressive. I think that’s what they want to see — they want to see fight.”
With his career in flux, Fredette said he’s also tried to hard to stay mentally strong, hoping that at least one NBA organization would give him another shot.
While it might not have worked out for him with four other teams, it only takes a good match with one team to revive a once-promising NBA career.
“There’s a lot of guys in the NBA, it’s about finding the right fit, a coach that has some trust in you that will play you night in and night out, consistently,” he said. “Trying to find a right fit is the tough part.”
The 26-year-old from upstate New York and the Madison Square Garden occupants are hopeful they’ll fit like a glove.
"Sometimes it takes players a few years to figure out how to adjust to the game and the NBA level,” Rambis said, “so we'll see if he made those adjustments.”
EMAIL: [email protected]