Posted Oct 16, 2012 10:20 AM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Jimmer Fredette was discussing his improvements, about how he is more confident now and vocal than he was last year in his rookie season -- when, by the way, he had a much better reason to be confident and vocal. Then he stopped.
"We're not there yet," he said.
Not to the point yet where the hype machine is spitting out the return of Jimmermania. Not even to the point where Fredette is a central figure in the Kings' hoped-for resurgence. Not yet.
"Preseason, practice -- that's different than in games," he said.
It is the first few weeks of camp and exhibition play, before anything counts in the standings, and Fredette is the one offering the reality check. Teammates praise his gains and several mention -- without prompting -- that he has been the best player in Kings camp. But Fredette knows, and always has, that NBA success is not handed out as an entitlement to a lottery pick. His perspective thankfully remains true.
So much has changed since he went from BYU scoring sensation to the Kings as the 10th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He got lapped by fellow rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas, picked at No. 60. He shot just 38.6 percent. The Kings, after another disastrous season, signed another point guard, free agent Aaron Brooks.
Now Fredette is down to third string, at best, at a position that was supposed to be his at the outset of 2011-12. He's in the mix for backup shooting guard with Tyreke Evans (who is in a position mix himself as the potential starter at small forward with a part-time home in the backcourt). A season after his manic introduction to the NBA, Fredette no longer has a clear path to the rotation on a team that hasn't had a winning record in the last six seasons.
Still, he came back showing more confidence and sounding more vocal, willing to step in and initiate conversations where before he may have been too concerned with trying to fit in. It is not the same roster situation, and it is not the same Fredette, but one constant remains: The Kings finished 26th in field-goal percentage and 29th in 3-point accuracy last season and remain desperate for anyone who can make a shot, anyone with range.
The Kings still very much need Jimmer. Or what many think Jimmer can be.
If the Kings' shooters have no range, life becomes infinitely easier for opposing defenses. If life becomes infinitely easier for defenses, it becomes harder for DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson, the new foundations of the future, inside. And if the development of Cousins at center and Robinson at power forward is stunted, the rebuilding suffers yet another serious setback.
So this glimpse of an improved Fredette is important, no matter how early in the calendar.
"I feel like he's always had the talent, he just wasn't really confident and comfortable last year," Thomas said. "With a year under his belt, he's very comfortable now and he knows what he needs to do."
We definitely are not there yet. We are not close to there. Fredette is more outspoken and self-assured and at least in the right positions on defense more often. But he still has shot just 5-for-14 in two exhibitions.
He insists, though, this is a different Jimmer.
"Coming into last year, sometimes you've got to feel people out," he said. "I think that was the biggest thing with me, being more vocal this year, being more confident in my abilities, not worrying about making mistakes and going out there and playing."
The guy who as a senior at BYU scored the 11th-most points in NCAA history and collected a ton of Player of the Year hardware needed to be more confident? The shooter with range to about the locker room had to become more certain of his abilities?
"I did have confidence," Fredette said. "But when you're not playing as much and some games you don't play at all, you sometimes can doubt what's going on. I tried to do the best that I could to stay confident in my abilities. And I always have been. But I think this year I'm more confident just with the NBA game. I was confident, obviously, at the college level, and it's a new level, it's a new challenge. You've just got to continue to gain that confidence going into this year.
"I'm feeling very confident this year, though. I'm excited to do some great things."
The Kings, with a lot riding on his development, will obviously take that new attitude. It's more than they had before. It's clearly something they need.
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