Jimmer trying to find his place in NBA

An unscheduled Sunday drive into the lane was unleashed upon the NBA by

some of its most distinguished point guards.

Deron

Williams scored 57 points for a New Jersey Nets squad that, on four previous occasions this year, had been unable to scrape together 80. Rajon Rondo spiked his trade value for the Boston Celtics by providing

triple-double trouble for Linsanity and the New York Knicks. Derrick

Rose put up 35 points for the Chicago Bulls, Denver’s Ty Lawson flirted

with a triple-double of his own, and Chris Paul went for 28 and 10 dimes

in the Clippers’ win over the Houston

Rockets.

And before the ultimate sage, Steve Nash,

knocked in 19 points during the Phoenix Suns’ victory over the

Sacramento Kings, a kid sitting in the visitors’ locker room was

contemplating what it will take just to secure his place in the

league.

A year ago, Jimmer Fredette was gunning the

BYU Cougars into March Madness and accelerating a national hoops debate

regarding his potential as an NBA player. Now, more than 30 games into his rookie

season with the Kings, the 10th overall pick in last summer’s draft

isn’t even working at point guard. Sacramento has turned to Isaiah

Thomas, the diminutive whirlwind out of Washington, to run its offense.

Thomas, selected 50 spots (last pick, second round) later in the same

draft, has provided the Kings with a sometimes-dynamic

option.

In Sunday’s game against the Suns, Fredette

spent the majority of his 10 minutes sort of loitering in the corner

while other Kings — including John Salmons — attempted to initiate

Sacramento’s offense in relief of the relentless Thomas. Fredette, who

had made 8 of 14 shots from the field in back-to-back double-digit

scoring efforts against the two Los Angeles teams, didn’t do much (no

points, 0 for 1 from the field, one rebound) during his time in

Phoenix.

This three-game contrast defines his first

spin through the NBA.
 
“It’s been up and

down . . . up and down,” Fredette said when asked to assess his rookie

production. “I’ve had some really good nights and some not-so-good

nights.”

One season after leading NCAA Division I

players in scoring (28.9 points per game), Jimmer is giving the Kings

7.9 points per game and making a reasonably good 39 percent of his

3-point attempts. But 39 also represents his overall field-goal

percentage.

The adjustments have been a struggle.

While Fredette was working as backup point guard for coach Paul Westphal

to start the season, Westphal made some public declarations about the

questionable professionalism of Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings

made a coaching change, promoting assistant Keith Smart. Now that Smart

is in the big chair, Thomas has produced some big moments for the

Kings, with former starting point guard Tyreke Evans (a former Rookie of

the Year) sliding over when Thomas sits

down.

Fredette, who demonstrated the ability to

create opportunities with the ball in college, has been on a slower

learning curve off the dribble in the bigger, badder NBA. His ability to

make deep shots has, for now, limited his participation to that of

spot-up shooter.

“There’s a lot of different things I

need to work on,” Fredette said. “But just continuing to work in

decision-making . . . when to shoot it, when to pass it in different

areas, and then keep working defensively.”

Defense

was the greatest concern NBA personnel sharpies had regarding Jimmer’s

adjustment to professional basketball. At BYU, his work at that end of

the floor often appeared to be painfully rare. In Sunday’s game against

the Suns, Fredette spent most of his time trailing lane penetration by

Nash and Sebastian Telfair, situations made worse by what appeared to be

defensive-tactic uncertainty by teammates defending the

screen.

It was another in a season of lessons for

Fredette, who has scored 10 or more points in 11 games this season,

including four consecutive games in late January that included efforts

of 19 and 20.

“I think the biggest thing is just the

talent level,” he said of his assimilation, “the fact that you play

against a great player every night, and you have to be ready to play

every night.

“It’s being more consistent, especially

when you don’t know how many minutes you’re going to get every night. So

you just have to try to be ready every night . . . go out and be

aggressive and try to play your

game.”