From the great state of Utah and beyond, that hashtag has been a rallying cry for Jimmer Fredette’s legion of fans. A day after his 25th birthday, it’s finally become a reality as the third-year guard and the Sacramento Kings are set to officially give him his release from the franchise.
The decision to part ways with Fredette comes following the Kings’ unsuccessful attempts to deal the third-year guard before the NBA’s annual trade deadline. According to a league source, the Kings tried hard to move Fredette, but were unable to find a trade partner offering a contract of similar value and length to the third-year guard’s expiring $2.4 million deal. With Fredette’s minutes dwindling down to extinction following the deadline, the Kings opened up to the idea of a buyout, which was initiated by Fredette’s representation.
“I think Pete D’Alessandro and Vivek Ranadivé, our owner, deserve a lot of credit,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said prior to Tuesday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets. “Because we could just hold on to him and he could kind of finish out the season, go into free agency. But we’re trying to do this to help him out, to get (him) with a team where maybe he can get on a playoff roster and showcase his abilities in a different scenario…”
The former BYU standout came into the season optimistic about his third year with the Kings. With new ownership, new coaches and a new front office breathing new life into a moribund organization, Fredette had reason to be excited about a fresh start.
However, that optimism was short-lived as it became apparent his role on the team would be minimal at best. Following training camp and preseason, he became the odd man out of the Kings’ backcourt. Malone opted to give Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas the lion’s share of minutes at point guard and rookie Ben McLemore and Marcus Thornton most of the playing time at shooting guard. His departure from the capital city was seemingly all but sealed when the Kings declined to pick up his fourth-year option on his rookie contract prior to the league-mandated Oct. 31 deadline.
Though the season got off to a pessimistic start, Fredette managed to play his way into Malone’s rotation. With Thornton struggling, coupled with the departure of Vasquez in the trade for Rudy Gay, Fredette earned a steady five to 12 minutes a night as the Kings’ backup point guard. That all changed, however, following the trade deadline when Malone informed Fredette that the Kings would be using the rest of the season to evaluate and develop their young players. As a result, Fredette’s minutes were cut in favor of rookie Ray McCallum, whom the new regime selected in the second round of last summer’s draft.
“When he was given an opportunity at times, he came in and won games for us,” Malone said of Fredette. “That last game that jumps out obviously was in New York, where he played terrific. But it’s a numbers thing and now going into the stretch run, I need to see Ray McCallum, Ben McLemore and those guys play. And it just comes down to him maybe looking at another opportunity and having a chance to have success somewhere else.”
The Kings have been the only NBA team Fredette has ever known. Since arriving in Sacramento three years ago, he’s had an up-and-down career, beginning with an abbreviated rookie season due to the 2011 NBA lockout. From Paul Westphal briefly to Keith Smart to Malone, his playing time has been inconsistent under three head coaches. In 171 games as a pro, Fredette has posted career averages of 7.0 points and 1.5 assists in 15 minutes a night.
“His three years here have not gone the way he would have hoped obviously,” Malone said. “But I have a lot of respect for him as a man and how he’s carried himself through some difficult times, so hopefully this will all be resolved soon and I always wish Jimmer nothing but the best.”
For most of Fredette’s tenure in Sacramento, the Kings carried a crowded backcourt. It didn’t help the 25-year-old guard’s cause when another teammate of his selected in the 2011 NBA Draft emerged from out of his shadow. Isaiah Thomas, selected with the last overall pick, played too well in training camp and in ensuing practices for Kings coaches to simply ignore his talent.
The third-year player out of Washington has taken off as the Kings’ starting point guard this season, averaging better than 20 points and six assists per night, all while becoming a fan favorite. While Fredette’s star has fallen in his three years with the Kings, Thomas’ star, meanwhile, continues to rise.
“It is (weird),” Thomas said when asked how odd it is to now be the last man standing from the Kings’ 2011 draft class. “Because first, it was Tyler Honeycutt in my draft class and now Jimmer (is gone). He’s a great dude and a good basketball player. The thing about this business is it could happen to anybody. It sucks to see him go, but good luck to him in the rest of his career and whatever team he ends up on.”
Fredette was not in uniform, nor was he in the building last night when the Kings fell victim to a drubbing at the hands of the Houston Rockets. Instead, his last day as a King culminated with morning shootaround. Teammates and coaches marked his quarter-century of existence by singing him “Happy Birthday” before their brief gameday workout came to an end.
Perhaps Jimmer Fredette’s birthday wish was granted yesterday. Then again, maybe it wasn’t. But for his legion of fans, their wish to see Jimmer freed has finally become a dream come true.