Before the Sacramento Kings took to the court to battle the Chicago Bulls Thursday night, I caught up with rookie Jimmer Fredette in the Kings locker room. It’s not often you find Jimmer without a media crowd, so I was glad to get a little one-on-one time with the former BYU star. Jimmer is off to a perfectly fine start as a rookie, topping his career high in points-scored in each game played. While Jimmer is known for his shooting prowess, he has been a pleasant surprise as both a distributor and defender.
CK: You’re going against Derrick Rose tonight. What’s it like to face off against a young guy who has really taken off – a league MVP?
Jimmer: I’ve met Derrick before. He’s a really good guy, he’s a very hard worker and obviously a great player in this league – an MVP. He can do some things that people can’t do in this league. He’s just so fast and quick and he can shoot the ball. He has good vision, he’s a tough guard. It’s exciting for me to get to play against him and for our whole team to be able to play against this team to kind of measure ourselves, see how we’re doing this year because they’re one of the top teams. They made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and they’re looking to do the same this year. It’s a good test for us and I’m really looking forward to playing him and their whole team.
CK: Two games into your rookie season, how do you feel like you are doing so far? Are you getting comfortable?
Jimmer: I’m getting more comfortable. It’s still an adjustment for sure. I haven’t played very much in this league, only for three weeks or whatever it is. But I’m trying to get more comfortable every single game. I feel better out there now. It’s just takes a little bit of getting used to and I will continue to get better.
CK: This is a defensive-minded team you are facing tonight. What are you going to do to really open things up? This is a game where your team really needs a player like yourself to step up and hit some outside shots to open things up.
Jimmer: Yeah, we just need to make shots and move the ball well and try to give up a good shot for a great shot. That’s something we can do and we have done this season and when we do that we are very good offensively. We can do that tonight. We just have to pick our spots and make plays, execute well and make shots.
CK: There has been talk that you a little tentative so far, especially shooting the ball from the outside. Do you feel like you are tentative or do you feel like you are just trying to get in the flow of the game?
Jimmer: That’s exactly what it is, I’m just trying to get into the flow, help my teammates out, try to do what is right during the game. Maybe there have been a couple of shots that I have turned down. I don’t think there has been too many, but there probably have been a couple. Coach has assured me to be as aggressive as I can be and be a scorer out there. That is what he is looking for out of me and so are my teammates and it will open things up.
CK: You have this issue that whenever you touch the ball, people are yelling for you to shoot it. Is that something you are trying to dispel?
Jimmer: No, it’s happened to me a lot throughout the years. It’s just something that comes with the territory and you just go out there and make the right play whatever it is anyway, not worry about it too much. There will be a lot of times where I will shoot the ball and they will be happy, but if I’m making the right play and we are scoring baskets and winning games, they will be happy regardless.
CK: I know Chuck Hayes has talked about a couple of defensive plays that you have done that really impressed him. Against the Lakers, you closed out on Derek Fisher and forced him to the middle where your bigs could help out. Are you progressing defensively? Do you feel like you have learned a lot so far?
Jimmer: Yeah, definitely. I feel like that is stereotype I need to get off my back, that I can’t play defense. I know that I can and the coaching staff has seen that and so have the players down there in the situations to help them out and play good team defense and just be where I’m supposed to be at different times. I’ll continue to get better at it, I’m not perfect at it, but I’ll keep getting better and I think things have been going well so far.
It’s hard not to like Jimmer. He is thoughtful and answers any question thrown his way. Coach Westphal has given Jimmer plenty of playing time so far and the rookie has responded well in most situations. Like he said, he’s not perfect, but the early results are impressive and it’s not hard to see a time when Jimmer cracks the starting line-up.
Jimmer needs to be slightly more assertive on the floor. You can still hear voices in the crowd, even a quiet murmur every time he touches the ball. The fans want to see him hoist up more shots, and after watching him closely for a few weeks, I’m pretty sure Coach Westphal feels the same. While he refines his NBA game, Jimmer brings something that the Kings desperately need – floor spacing. His opponents won’t readily admit it, but they know his range and they also know they have to guard him. If they don’t, Jimmer will continue to set new career highs in scoring every night.