He does not fit in here, among these giants, but there at his locker sits one of the most entertaining college basketball players in recent memory. One hour before the Mavericks and Pelicans tipoff, Jimmer Fredette is playing with his phone.
Things have not gone the way Jimmer Fredette planned when he left BYU for the NBA, but his career arc has followed the path many feared when the Milwaukee Bucks selected him with the 10th overall selection in the 2011 draft. He was dealt immediately to the Sacramento Kings, eventually moved on to the Chicago Bulls and is now with the New Orleans Pelicans.
The player selected after Jimmer was Klay Thompson. Five picks later, it was Kawhi Leonard.
Jimmer is the poster child of why the NBA draft is often an exercise in stupid, and the brutality of the league for short guys with slow feet. Nearly every single fear and projection about Jimmer’s game has come to fruition in the NBA. He can’t create his own shot. He struggles on defense. The one thing he can do - shoot - he can’t.
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The last time I saw him play was his senior season at BYU against TCU in Fort Worth. The game was not what people would call “very close.” He was so much fun to watch.
“I do remember that,” he told me Monday night. “I remember it because when we came there, it was almost entirely BYU fans. Every time we played at TCU, there was always more BYU fans than TCU fans.”
He’s not wrong. Thanks to his college game, and that wonderful name, he is still worth writing about. Polite to a fault. Sweet. Genial. And it’s just not there. He has career Euro player written all over him.
Since he left BYU, basketball has treated Jimmer the way it does most goes who go up to the NBA. He has averaged 6.3 points on 41 percent shooting in the NBA. This season, he averages 10.6 minutes for the Pelicans, and a career-low 3.8 points per game.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be not real easy,” he said.
I asked him what he would tell an incoming rookie to do when he entered the league.
“Control what you can control,” he said, “and do what you do well. Do the things that they know you can do.”
In Jimmer’s case, that’s shoot. In college, Jimmer was a great theater because of his unlimited range and willingness to throw it up from anywhere. In the NBA, where defenders are longer and can close out quicker, he can’t get that shot off. He is shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers in the NBA.
“It’s been cool and it’s been up and down. I do feel like I’ve progressed,” he said. “Just fitting in and doing what I do when I am on the floor. It’s not a league where you are going to come into the league and be a superstar right away. It’s rotational minutes, and you do have to fight for it. ... People do know me from the BYU days, but a lot of that has died down. I don’t get that as much.”
Jimmer’s contract expires after this season, and there is that chance another team will give him a look. He is only 26. The better bet is that he winds up in Europe, where his game belongs.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760