NBA • Ex-Cougar makes auspicious debut with Kings.
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Jimmer Fredette answered the question with the same touch he showed in his first preseason start for the Sacramento Kings the other night, which included 7-for-11 shooting, 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, and a total of 21 points.
He was asked by Sam Amick of SI.com about his proper transition to the NBA game and playing for and with the Kings, and the former BYU guard stopped, popped and dusted the net:
"It's just like coming into college when you're a freshman," he said. "It's a whole different challenge, going out there and proving yourself and trying to gain respect from them and showing respect to them, as well. Then, hopefully, you get on the floor and show them you can play."
In the Kings' two exhibitions, a loss on the road to and a win at home over Golden State, Fredette has done exactly that, putting up 33 points, making better than 50 percent of his attempts, and delivering seven assists.
When I talked with Amick earlier this week, he told me: "I think he's going to have an impact."
The rookie will be part of a three-guard rotation in Sacramento, along with Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton. It's a near-perfect scenario for Fredette, who will feel the push and pressure from within to play up to his own standard without having to carry the entire franchise right from jump.
Helping him in that regard is the initial positive impression he's made with his teammates. Just as the quote above suggests, and as BYU fans here would suspect, Jimmer hasn't big-timed any of the Kings off the court, nor has he chapped any of them by way of attitude on it.
He's fit in, even as he and his teammates have worked to mesh his game into theirs.
Two telling comments from Thornton and big man DeMarcus Cousins are as follows:
"I'm still trying to get a feel for him," Thornton said. "He's quiet, but he laughs and jokes with us. As a rookie, you kind of feel your way out, try to figure out where you fit in. He's going to be all right. The thing I like about him is, I don't think he's too worried about his hype. He's focused. He's out there playing, and he'll let the chips fall where they may."
Said Cousins: "I love Jimmer, man. Jimmer's a cool dude. He's a real good rookie. I just love the fact that he's always trying to get it right and he's always learning. He's very humble. And him being the big star that he was, you kind of expect him to come in and have swag and have his chest out, but he's the complete opposite. I've enjoyed him from the beginning."
There's little doubt that Fredette will feel the undulating effects of his first season in the NBA. There will be nights when he gets his trash kicked, but there will also be nights when he does the kicking. Those who compare him to limited spot-up shooters who starred in college and then were relegated to a kind of second-class status in the league haven't studied his game.
Fredette can do more than shoot. He can split defenders, drive to the basket, create shots off the dribble, and set up teammates with open looks. He can score in the NBA, especially when defenders can't collapse on him and ignore everybody else. What remains in doubt is how much defense he can play. He'll have to learn to find good position against the quicker guards he faces.
"Don't ever doubt that kid, I'll promise you that," said BYU assistant coach Tim LaComb, who guessed Jimmer would score some 15 points a game as a rookie. "Don't ever doubt him. He is one of the hardest-working guys, one of the more headstrong guys I've ever met. You want to talk about a dude who loves to play and who is really good at what he does. I would not doubt him for a second."
The Kings are young and yet incomplete and haven't made the playoffs in half a decade. In the abbreviated preseason, they've given the ball away as though it were filled with nitroglycerin.
But an opportunity exists now for improvement, and Fredette's got more than a bit role in that.
I asked Sam if he believes there is any way the mania that swamped Fredette in college could eventually spill over to the NBA, and he said: "If you combine the right set of circumstances and tell me that Jimmer is going to be a major part of this team getting to the playoffs at some point, and, more importantly, if the team ends up staying in Sacramento … I don't know if it would be like [Tim] Tebow, but it would be pretty big."
Rookies don't typically do much in the NBA.
Fredette can't lift the Kings himself, nor is he expected to. But he can do more than shake hands and sell jerseys and sit on the bench. He can ball. And, like LaComb predicted, he will prove a lot of doubters wrong.
As Jimmer said when he was still playing for the Cougars, "I've been doing that my whole life."
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.