While he played just 14 minutes on Monday night, Jimmer Fredette was welcomed back to Utah with open arms.
The former BYU star, who signed a deal with the Phoenix Suns to finish out the season last week, received a warm standing ovation upon entering their matchup with the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Back on the court in Utah!
Jimmer's got some fans 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/qfBlY22aUj
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) March 26, 2019
The Jazz, though, dominated nearly the entire night and cruised to a 125-92 win, their seventh win in eight games. Fredette finished with six points — four of which came on free throws — and shot just 1-of-10 from the field. He also went a rough 0-of-5 from the 3-point line.
His impact was minimal on Monday night, but it’s clear that BYU fans in Salt Lake City haven’t forgotten what Fredette did for their program nearly a decade ago.
“I get into the game, the crowd is definitely crazy,” Fredette said, via ESPN’s Ben Criddle. “I appreciate the fans and everything. I felt pretty amped up about the game. A lot of my shots were a little bit long, but it felt good to just get out there, just be aggressive, play my game, and know that if I keep doing that that everything’s going to be good.”
Devin Booker drops 59 points in loss
Not much was working for the Suns on Monday in their 33-point loss.
Devin Booker was the exception — and that’s putting it lightly.
Booker scored a season-high 59 points, shooting 19-of-34 from the field and 5-of-8 from the 3-point line, absolutely dominating offensively. The Jazz simply had no answer, even when they put two defenders on him.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) March 26, 2019
The 22-year-old accounted for more than 64 percent of their points alone, and was the only Suns player to score in double figures. Center Deandre Ayton was the closest otherwise, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds.
Booker is now just the fourth player in league history to record multiple 50-point games before turning 23. He’s also just the second player in Suns history to have multiple-50 point games, joining Tom Chambers.
“The kid can score,” Fredette said, via ESPN’s Benjamin Criddle. “The kid can shoot. He’s a gamer. We try to run everything through him, because he’s such a talented player. Wanted him to get 60, but obviously he’s the cornerstone of this team. It’s good to play with him, and I try to do the best I can to help him out.”
Fredette hopped on Suns’ radar after success in China
While his first attempt at the NBA wasn’t very productive — he played sparingly for four teams in five years — Fredette quickly found success on the other side of the world.
After playing in his final NBA game with the New York Knicks, Fredette signed with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Shanghai Sharks in 2016. He was named the CBA’s International MVP in 2017, led the league in scoring with 36.9 points per game and dropped a league-record 219 3-pointers last season.
Even though the CBA isn’t the same talent level as the NBA, Fredette’s performance in the league is still extremely impressive. The three-time CBA All-Star, though, said that his goal after this season in China was to find a way to make it back to the NBA, and that it was in the back of his mind all year.
“You have to speak things into existence sometimes if you want them to happen,” Fredette said. “So I always felt that way, but obviously when a team does call, you never know what’s going to happen. You always take it slow at first, you never get your hopes up too much. But once you get there and you sign on the dotted line, then you can get excited and ready to go.”
Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said that once Fredette’s responsibilities with the Sharks had ended and he became available, they added him to the list of players they were considering signing to help them finish out the season.
Once things had fallen into place, the Suns made it official — signing Fredette through the end of the season and adding a team option for next year.
“It made so much sense,” Kokoskov said on Monday. “Obviously his talent, he’s instant offense. And we’re missing some guys, so it made so much sense for us to pick up Jimmer.”
Igor Kokoskov, on Jimmer (and the Jazz and the Suns), Part 1 pic.twitter.com/wT74WerwFK
— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) March 25, 2019
Fredette’s future with the Suns
Fredette’s start with the Suns has been slow — he played just four minutes in his debut on Saturday — but that’s to be expected.
Kokoskov, understanding what the 30-year-old can bring to the table, said they don’t want to jump the gun.
“We know he’s talented,” Kokoskov said. “We know what he’s capable of doing … We don’t want to overreact in terms fo putting too much expectations or pressure on him, that he’s going to step on the court and put up 40 points every night. So, just being yourself, come ready, come prepared, and if the team needs you, just perform and play.”
While his future with the franchise is still up in the air, Fredette said he feels he can fit in well with the Suns and their young core of players.
Now, though, he just has to prove it.
“They like to play fast,” Fredette said, via NBA.com. “They like to shoot the three. Two things that I like to do and that I do well, but also I’m more of a veteran player now. A guy that comes in and can do his work every day. Try to help any way that I can – on the floor or off the floor. And then provide a spark. Be able to come in and be able to score the basketball in a bunch of different ways. It’s a really good fit for me and I’m excited to be here.”
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