HANG TIME WEST – Jimmer Fredette never had a fair start. He joined the NBA in the lockout season of 2011-12, so no summer league and a training camp on fast forward, played for two coaches as a rookie, Paul Westphal and Keith Smart, and another, Michael Malone, in his third campaign. The Kings tried to make him a point guard, then moved Fredette to shooting guard.
“I’ve been given chances at times,” he said.
The hope that shooting 51.6 percent overall and 60 percent on three-pointers in 22.1 minutes of exhibition play would finally become a prominent role has instead whiplashed into his harshest days yet: The Kings did not pick up the option on his 2014-15 contract by the Oct. 31 deadline, he has sat three of the four games and logged all of three minutes in the other and Malone is being frank that Fredette should not expect real minutes anytime soon.
This is a team breaking up with a former lottery pick in a very public way. Not keeping him under contract for next season is the Kings officially saying they don’t see a future – it’s not us, it’s you – although they can always try to re-sign Fredette in the summer as an unrestricted free agent if they see something over the next five months. Not playing him now, not playing him more than three minutes when they were desperate for any sign of life against the Warriors, is Sacramento saying it doesn’t see a present.
The question is whether he finishes the season with the Kings or is dealt to allow the new administration to recoup something, anything, from the initial investment. There is no automatic answer – decent offers don’t exactly roll in for players who can’t get off the bench for lottery teams, it sometimes makes more sense for management to let players walk for nothing rather than take on an unwanted contract in trade, and there was skepticism in some front offices long before this whether his star turn at BYU would translate to the pros. Meanwhile, there is also Marcus Thornton and Ben McLemore ahead of Fredette at shooting guard and Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas at point guard.
As Malone said when asked if any minutes are left for Fredette: “Right now, no. I think it’s impossible to play three point guards, it’s impossible to play three two-guards. The decision, which was a tough decision that I made, is to start Greivis, bring Isaiah off the bench, to start Marcus and to bring Ben off the bench. My challenge to Jimmer is, ‘I know this isn’t the news that you wanted. You did some good things for us in the preseason, but you’re a pro and I need you to stay ready because anything can happen.’ There’ll be games, like we did last game, we played a lot of small ball. We had Isaiah and Greivis out there together. Right now, he’s not in the rotation. But as we all know, in this business, anything can happen on a given night and he may be forced into minutes. I know he’ll be ready, willing and able to contribute at a high level.”
Fredette said he didn’t know what to expect with the contract, and that is possible even after years of strong hints he has a limited future in Sacramento. Maybe a fresh regime, from owner to general manager to coach, meant a fresh start? The Kings got McLemore in the draft – hint, hint – but Jimmer’s exhibition play had to encourage the new bosses enough?
No. And no.
“It’s just something that they made a business decision that they thought was best for their team, and the best that I can do is to keep working hard and not focus on it, just make sure you’re doing the best with your time and know that your career’s not over,” Fredette said. “You’ve just got to keep playing and keep working hard to get where you’re supposed to be.
“It’s tough at times to not play. As a competitor, you want to be out there. It’s always tough to watch others play and know you’ve put in the time, you’ve put in work. But at the same time, you have to support them. You’re a teammate and you have to be the best teammate you can be and go out and continue to better and hopefully you get an opportunity. And when you do get the opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
He said his confidence is not shaken after the last week, not to mention the last years. “Not even a little bit.” But this isn’t even Fredette at a crossroads with the Kings any more and needing to make something good happen. This is Fredette unable to get on the court and out of the long-term plans. This is Fredette, who never had a fair start, coming to the end in Sacramento.