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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – With time running out, Jimmer Fredette did a pirouette atop the 3-point line and hoisted a potentially game-winning shot. The impartial, sparse crowd groaned in disappointment as the former college basketball star’s shot rattled in and out, and his Westchester Knicks lost to the Texas Legends in the D-League Showcase on Wednesday.
The NBA Development League is a long way from the former lottery pick’s beginning in the NBA. But with a chance to be his old scoring self again, Fredette is enjoying playing in the NBA’s minor league.
“It wasn’t necessarily a letdown because I knew I had to do some things to get onto a team where I can thrive,” Fredette told Yahoo Sports about being in the D-League. “That wasn’t going to be the case at the beginning of the year if you get to that 15th roster spot and then you sit there and don’t play much. It was kind of a breath of fresh air to go out and know you’re going to get some playing time, be able to play, do what you do, gain some confidence and get some reps. That was the biggest thing for me when I talked to my agent and my family, was to get reps, get confidence back and be able to show people what I can do again.”
Fredette was the consensus college basketball player of the year in 2010-11, averaging an NCAA-leading 28.9 points per game as a senior at BYU. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, ahead of current stars Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler.
But Fredette’s score-at-will perimeter game didn’t translate well to the NBA. He’s played sparingly over five seasons with the Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans and had problems hitting shots regularly when he did play. The San Antonio Spurs waived him during the preseason, but he did re-sign with the Pelicans in November before being waived once again.
“It’s tough for any competitor,” Fredette told Yahoo Sports. “You talk to any guy at the end of any NBA bench, they want to be out there playing no matter what. You still want to be supportive to your teammates and to your team. You are happy for the guys in front of you, but at the same time in practice, you want to show that you want to play and what you can do out there. It can get frustrating, but at the same time you can only control what you can control.”
Fredette is averaging 23.7 points in 15 games for Westchester, the affiliate of the New York Knicks. Westchester practices in the Knicks’ facility but has a separate entrance and playing area. Basically, he’s as close to and as far from the NBA as he has ever been.
Westchester president Allan Houston, a former Knicks star, said Fredette’s D-League goals are to be efficient offensively and to improve defensively.
“He came in right away with a lot of humility,” Houston told Yahoo Sports. “Early on, he was trying to figure out the system a little. He has acclimated to his teammates and he knew he would have an impact right away. He put a lot on himself early.
“But as time went on, what I’ve been impressed with is how he’s kind of settled in and not had to do so much. He’s been efficient. He’s been productive. His strength is playing without the ball in his hands as much. He’s competing defensively.”
As of late Thursday morning, the Knicks, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets had open roster spots. NBA teams can now sign players to 10-day contracts, and more roster spots could open because with the Jan. 10 contract guarantee deadline approaching, more players could be waived.
Fredette said he and his agent are keeping a close eye on the NBA roster landscape, and some NBA teams appear to have their eye on Fredette as well.
“Jimmer should be able to provide an offensive punch off the bench for an NBA team,” one longtime NBA scout said. “His defense has improved and he has become a better teammate.”
Fredette told Yahoo Sports that he considered overseas options in Italy, Greece, Serbia and Australia before joining the D-League, but the NBA is still his top option.
“I am playing basketball for the love of the game, but I also want to do what’s best for my career and my family. So whatever that is, we will take that path. We will see what happens in the future,” Fredette told Yahoo Sports.
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