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Jimmer Mania came to an end right around the time Jimmer Fredette took the last of those pulsating, pull-up 3-point bombs from, oh, five to 10 feet beyond the line, during his thrilling senior year at Brigham Young. The problem for Fredette – and his devoted collection of fans stretching from upstate New York to the middle of Utah – was the continued expectation that the craze would find a home of some kind in the NBA, where short shooting guards with slow feet and no ability to adjust aren't long for the league.
That Fredette was able to last for more than four years, and have four teams willing to take a chance on him is a testament to his dogged determination – and perhaps the hope that a productive NBA player still existed somewhere in that slight, 6-foot-2 frame.
The San Antonio Spurs were the latest team to take a shot on and eventually cut bait with a player whose college career was so legendary and so filled with hype, magazine covers and unadulterated hero worship that the Sacramento Kings decided to trade down in order to draft him 10th overall in 2011 – directly ahead of All-Star Klay Thompson and five spots ahead of 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. But Fredette was cut on Wednesday in a move that could very well serve as the end of his uninspiring NBA career, unless he alters his game and his belief that he could recapture that old college magic if only somebody was willing to let him.
"Jimmer thinks everybody is stupid," said an NBA assistant who worked with Fredette. "He thinks everybody needs to come and just turn over their offense and let him shoot it anytime he wants. That's not how the league works."
The Kings cut Fredette before the completion of his rookie deal and he quickly found a home in Chicago, finishing out his third season on a playoff team. Fredette spent last season in New Orleans, where the Pelicans hoped he would be a viable replacement for sharpshooter Anthony Morrow after connecting on more than 40 percent of his career shots from long distance at that point. But not only did he prove an unreliable 3-point threat (9 for 48, 18.8 percent), Fredette was also unwilling – or unable – to assume playmaking responsibilities for a team that desperately needed help at point guard after Jrue Holiday sustained a serious leg injury.
The Pelicans tried Gal Mekel, Russ Smith, Nate Wolters and then Toney Douglas, signing most to brief in-season contracts, before they finally made a deal for Norris Cole. Fredette's lack of versatility and the liability he presented on defense made it difficult to justify any more than sporadic minutes. The latter was especially damaging since speedy reserve combo guards routinely treated Fredette like a revolving door to buckets.
"His foot speed at that position isn't on par with those guys. That's a big deal," the NBA assistant said. "I think the big thing for Jimmer is not offensively but defensively."
After squandering his opportunity in New Orleans, Fredette was admittedly surprised last summer when he was working out in Denver and the Spurs called to offer him a half-year guaranteed contract. The situation seemed to be his last best chance to stick around in a selfless Spurs system that has revived a few stagnant careers. But the NBA assistant coach never expected the partnership to go anywhere.
"He won't adjust his game for it," he said. "He'll tell you, 'This is what I did at BYU.' Well, BYU, that's a long time ago."
The NBA is littered with the high tops of flameouts with storied collegiate careers, and Fredette shouldn't be ashamed for lasting as long as he has. Despite his lack of accuracy in New Orleans, Fredette might garner another opportunity in the league because of his reputation as a shooter and the steadily increasing premium placed on the 3-pointer. Fredette's former coach suggested that the 26-year-old pattern his next incarnation after Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, a former unconscious shooting stud at Duke who needed nearly four seasons to establish himself in the league.
"J.J. is a good example for him," another of his NBA coaches said. "He had done a lot of prolific scoring in college, but came in and eventually figured out the NBA. He changed his body. He learned the league. He's had a hell of a career, but it wasn't easy for him early on."
Redick, of course, is two inches taller and embraced early on that he was going to be a role player in the NBA. Fredette is still struggling to come to grips with his limitations and lack of awareness could ultimately usher an end to his career – if that hasn't already arrived.
"In college everything was geared around him," his former coach said. "He's had to learn how to play off other people here, and that's been a struggle for him."
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