We have been screaming this from the mountain tops since the first day of training camp last season. Jimmer Fredette is too nice. He wants to fit in too badly. He doesn’t want to steal the spotlight, he just wants to be one of the guys and by doing so, he has lost the edge that made him great.
Following the Kings’ final summer league game in Las Vegas, Jimmer finally said what needed to be said, for himself and for everyone involved.
“I think I changed my game too much,” Jimmer said on the NBATV telecast. “I was too passive. I was trying to fit in a little bit too much. That’s what I was working on this year. Just getting that confidence back. Just getting that stroke back and just being aggressive when I’m on the floor. That’s what they (Kings) got me for, to score the basketball and make plays for this team.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel better now, and no, I’m not joking.
Below is Jimmer on one of the first days of training camp last season. Notice that Adrian Oliver, an undrafted free agent who did not make the team, is working alongside Jimmer and not fellow rookies Isaiah Thomas or Tyler Honeycutt. I have more clips similar to this, like Jimmer handing out water and Gatorade to his ALL of his teammates who are busy stretching on the floor after practice. Being nice is one thing, but I have always held the belief that he was flat out trying too hard to fit in.
Jimmer came into the NBA as more than a basketball player. He has a following that is as devout as any player that I have ever seen coming from the college ranks. He has pressure that normal players don’t have, but somewhere along the way, he added to that pressure by trying to be something that neither he, nor anyone else is – perfect.
When the Kings added Aaron Brooks earlier this week, the message was made very clear - the Kings aren’t comfortable walking into this season with Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer as their four guard rotation.
What does that mean?
It means that if Jimmer wants to play, he is going to have to fight his way into the rotation. He is going to have to compete for minutes against Thornton, who led the Kings in scoring last season, Tyreke Evans who won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year trophy three seasons ago, Aaron Brooks, the 2009-10 NBA’s Most Improved Player, and Isaiah Thomas, the final pick in the 2011 NBA draft who played so well the Kings had no choice but to anoint him the starting point guard last season.
“Isaiah (Thomas) is obviously kind of the incumbent, regardless of the experience that Aaron (Brooks) had,” said Kings Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reynolds. “He is a proven guy and Jimmer is still in the proving stage.”
It’s an uphill climb from here on out. Mr. Nice Guy is done or at least he is if he wants to step foot on the court.
Jimmer had an up and down summer league, but the aggressive play that helped lead him to the NCAA scoring crown two seasons ago started to show up. Call it what you will, but while he wouldn’t admit it, his 30 point performance on Monday against the Houston Rockets sure did look like a response to the Kings signing Brooks earlier in the day.
The Kings aren’t looking for Jimmer to yell and scream, but they want him to fight and they want him to progress as a player. While they liked the 30-point outburst, they want to see more. They want to see an aggressive player who demands playing time through his play.
“Did he show progress?” asked Reynolds. “Sure. Did he do everything that you wanted him to do? No, because at the end of the day, his shooting percentages were what they were and that’s not very good.”
While his shooting numbers were abysmal (35.8 percent from the floor, 22 percent from distance), the Kings have to be encouraged by the fact that Jimmer averaged eight free throw attempts per game. He was aggressive going to the basket and constantly drew contact. He averaged 18 points per game, while leading the Kings to a 2-3 record.
Was he playing against elite talent? Not even close, but he was also not playing with elite talent. The Kings brought just two players guaranteed a roster spot – Jimmer and rookie Thomas Robinson. Darnell Jackson and Tony Mitchell will probably get training camp invites, but both will have to fight a numbers game to make the final roster.
What is Smart looking for from Jimmer? How does he separate himself in a crowded back court?
“You have to be aggressive in your thought,” head coach Keith Smart told our own Jonathon Santiago on this week’s Cowbell Kingdom Podcast. “You come off a pick and roll, come off the pick and roll aggressively, because you’ll make plays not only for yourself, but also for your teammates, because it forces someone else to help. So when I want a player to be aggressive, I’m not necessarily carrying over, saying be aggressive by shooting. When you’re aggressive, you are going to do the things that you are accustomed to doing in that aggressive personality.”
Smart has his work cut out for him come training camp. Geoff Petrie, the Kings President of Basketball Operations has spent the summer accumulating talent, but it is Smart who must fit these pieces together.
“Keith (Smart) is going to be the one who decides who plays and who gets the minutes,” Petrie said following Brooks’ introductory press conference on Friday. “It’s just way too early to make a call on that.”
Maybe Smart is the perfect guy. A collegiate legend in his own right, Smart found the transition from winning an NCAA title at Indiana, to making it in the NBA a tough go. He understands expectations and managing personal failure and success. He has laid down the path for Jimmer – be aggressive, don’t let up and the player we watched in college will materialize. Be the player that got you here. Be yourself.
If summer league is any indication, Jimmer has heeded the warning. He now understands that fitting in is nice, but he needs to bring the skill set that won him so many accolades as a college senior at BYU. If not, he will sit on the bench and watch his friends steal all of his minutes.