NEWARK — The celebration was interrupted at the start, delayed a little longer and then held mostly behind closed doors for No. 10 pick Jimmer Fredette.
Sure, the Prudential Center got a dose of “Jimmer-Mania” during Thursday night’s draft, but nothing like we might have seen had Fredette not been a part of a three-team trade that saw him put on a Milwaukee Bucks hat to make his ceremonial walk across the stage to shake NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s hand, only to swap it out later for a Sacramento Kings’ lid.
Instead of making the normal media rounds like most of the other draft picks, Fredette remained sequestered in a private room in the bowels of the arena as the details of that trade were worked out.
By the time he did emerge from the back, it was clear that former BYU star was just relieved to finally be able to celebrate properly.
“Took a while waiting back there,” Fredette said. “But it’s a great moment for me and my family, and for the Sacramento Kings organization. Hopefully their fan base is excited, because I’m really excited to get out there and start the season with them and have a great year. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Not anymore than the folks in Sacramento.
The 10th pick in the draft was the only one to receive a shout out from the mayor of the city he will call home for the start of his professional career.
Former NBA star and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made his approval of the Kings’ pick public immediately.
“Jimmer is exactly what the Kings need right now,” he said in a statement. “He’s electric, a fan favorite and a competitor. Together with Tyreke [Evans], they will create one of the most dynamic, young guard combos in the NBA. Congrats to the Kings on an exciting pick.”
Someone even asked Fredette, tongue in cheek, of course, if he had any plans to run for President.
“No,” he shrugged. “I’m definitely going to stick with basketball for now.”
Evans was at one of the many draft night parties held in Sacramento and told the Sacramento Bee that he’s as eager to play with Fredette as the rookie point guard is to dive in with his new teammates.
“It’s gonna be a good one-two punch,” Evans said. “We’ll have to wait until training camp to see where each of us likes the ball, and it’s still up in the air if he plays the point and I play the two, or he plays the two and I have the ball. But he’s a great player, he can shoot, pass, score, do it all.”
Fredette was feeling the love from all sides on his big night. The Glens Falls, N.Y., native was surrounded by family and friends, had the crowd in the arena on his side from the moment he set foot in the building and drew a pack of reporters to rival any of the nine players picked ahead of him, including No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving.
Fredette’s a folk hero in Sacramento and Utah, but especially so in his hometown, which partied hard on the night their favorite son made his way to the biggest stage.
“It’s great,” Fredette said. “It’s great to have that support back home. It’s obviously where I grew up and was raised my whole entire life, and I’ll never forget the people that helped me get to this position where I am today. So it’s very exciting for myself and everybody back in Glens Falls and I’m glad that they are still supporting me.”
Fredette’s arrival in Sacramento could have a similar effect on a Kings fan base that has grown weary of the drama that has surrounded its beloved franchise the past few years. Now that they have a young core of Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Fredette, things should get really interesting on the court.
With Cousins assuming more responsibility in the paint and Fredette, a lethal outside shooter and scorer, playing off of Evans on the perimeter … the possibilities and matchup nightmares for other teams could be endless.
“He’s a slashing guard and able to get into the lane,” Fredette said of Evans, “a very physical guy who can guard the point and the two because he is so big. So that’s an advantage. I think we’ll be able to play really, really well together. Like I said, it’s a young team, young nucleus of guys they have out there. But we’re an exciting team that likes to get up and down and score the basketball, so it’s a great fit.”
A great fit for all involved.