Yesterday was an evening of celebration in Sacramento. Kings fans packed Sleep Train Arena and were treated to an incredible show both on and off the court. Cricket, explosions from the ceiling, David Stern and of course, Shaq highlighted a festive evening that concluded with a 90-88 victory for the Kings over the Denver Nuggets.
But this is professional sports. It’s a business. And come today, a difficult decision has to be made.
Jimmer Fredette has had a rocky start to his NBA career. There are reasons why he hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype of a top ten pick – franchise uncertainty, coaching instability, Isaiah Thomas - but reasons don’t excuse the reality. Jimmer is the fifth guard on a team that won 28 games last season.
With the team riding a major high after last night’s victory, one of the NBA’s strangest comes into play today and may take some of the excitement away for a lot of fans. The Kings have to make a decision by close of business today as to whether they’ll pick up the fourth-year option on Jimmer’s rookie contract.
Why this decision has to come today makes no sense. The date is arbitrary and coincides with no other major decision. And unfortunately for teams like the Kings, it comes on the heels of a night when everything went right. We have broken down the specifics of this decision before, but now the time is here.
It is an agonizing arrangement for everyone involved. It’s not about money in the conventional sense. Rather, it is about cap flexibility and assessing the value of a player. And it is an incredibly difficult decision for Pete D’Alessandro, a first time GM.
On the other side of the coin, the Fredette camp is in an arduous position as well. Will Jimmer make $3.1 million next season? Will he be traded? Will he have his option declined and then sit on the bench all season long while his value sinks even further? While this 24-year-old kid is supposed to be focusing on the game of basketball, a life-altering judgment on his future is being made by someone else.
“That’s a good question,” Fredette told Cowbell Kingdom when asked pregame about what he thought would happen with his contract today. “I honestly don’t know. I haven’t gotten an indication one way or another. I’ve worked hard this preseason and I think I’ve done pretty well, but it’s just up to them, whatever they decide is best for their team.”
If nothing else, Jimmer Fredette is politically correct. But how would you feel if you knew you were either guaranteed $3-million in future income or the possibility of absolutely nothing?
When asked if he was okay with what the Kings might decide, Jimmer gave the only real answer that you can in his situation.
“I have to be,” said Fredette, who did not play in last night’s season opener. “It’s just the way the business is.”
There is no doubt that all this talk of contracts is weighing heavily on the former BYU star. In his two-plus seasons with the Kings, he has had plenty of life changes off the court. He married his college sweetheart last summer and this decision is about more than just him. This is a lot of weight for a young couple to endure, but at least after today, they will know a little more about their future.
“It’s part of the business,” Fredette said. “It’s what basketball is. It’s what all professional sports are. It’s something that you just have to live with. You have to play well and prove yourself regardless, so whatever happens, happens.”
Those are heavy words. Regardless of which way the Kings go, this is an incredibly difficult decision for everyone involved. After an exciting first win, the reality of professional sports rears its ugly head and brings us back down to earth.