Jimmer Fredette is a rookie, and he will be a rookie next week and the week after that. So for those wondering why the former BYU standout has spent the past two games on the bench and hello to all you impassioned tweeters from Utah that's the short answer.
The long answer is that Jimmer walked into a mess.
The Kings and their coaching change. The Kings and their crowded backcourt. The Kings and their one-on-one style of play. The lockout that forced cancellation of the summer league and traditional training camps, shoving all the usual dramas into a compressed 66-game season.
But the thing about the NBA? A rookie's existence often is more fluid than political exit polls.
Fredette and the surprising Isaiah Thomas are sharing the ride, with one young guard, and then the other, receiving precious, unpredictable opportunities.
While both are inconsistent and mistake-prone, the diminutive Thomas has been the more confident, significant contributor lately, and rewarded accordingly. He seems to have forgotten that he's only a second-round pick and listed at an exaggerated 5-foot-9, as evidenced by his spectacular left-handed blocked shot against Portland's Wesley Matthews on Thursday that displayed all the chutzpah coaches find so endearing.
"Jimmer can be a good defender, too," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "He already would have learned a lot of these things if we had a summer league or a full training camp. Instead, he's thrown right in there."
Fredette, drafted 10th overall by Milwaukee and immediately traded to the Kings, is being asked to sort things out quickly and amid enormous hype and expectations. There hasn't been a lot of time for teaching anywhere in the NBA, but here in Sacramento, his development has been further hampered by an abrupt coaching and philosophical change, along with an unbalanced roster burdened by reluctant passers and dribble-heavy players.
So where does that leave Jimmer? During Saturday's overtime win over Golden State, it left him on the bench for a second consecutive game and visibly disappointed. On most days, it leaves him trying to figure out how his leadership and shotmaking skills translate to the NBA.
"I never sat out an entire game before," he admitted, "not even in high school, unless I was hurt or something. But I'm just trying to be a good teammate. I'll keep working and finding ways to get better."
Six weeks into the season, the Kings are convinced of this much: They regard the 6-2 Fredette as a shotmaker and superb deep shooter who will benefit immensely from a traditional offseason devoted to adding one-handed floaters and runners to his repertoire.
One of his biggest problems is a tendency to overpenetrate and jump-stop in the lane, attracting clusters of defenders like teenagers to free cellphones. His conflict is partly attributable to the fact that he wants to be perceived as more than a one-dimensional gunner.
Having been a floor leader throughout his career, he also is learning the nuances of moving without the ball, of understanding angles and how to utilize screens and ball/head fakes that freeze defenders.
"We can work on the point guard (skills) this summer," said Smart, "and we want Jimmer to make plays. But when he comes off a pick, he has to take that shot. He needs to become a little selfish."
Smart, who is energetic and resourceful, and intrigued by his team's depth and talent despite the flaws, is giving Fredette the green light to shoot, with more than a nudge in the process. While the Kings still need a facilitator and an athletic small forward who can stretch the floor, the feeling is that Fredette can help fill a void by doing what he does best, namely, taking and converting open shots.
"He makes it tough on himself because he wants to prove people wrong," said Kings assistant Bobby Jackson, "but I told him: 'You're not that fast or that athletic, but you have something a lot of guys don't have scoring ability. Stop trying to drive all the time.' His outside shooting opens things up for Tyreke (Evans) and (DeMarcus) Cousins."
Fredette's head is spinning with the daily information overload, but he remains good-natured and determined, and a devotee of film study. And if it's any consolation, he isn't the first Kings rookie to experience early bumps and bruises. Peja Stojakovic. Hedo Turkoglu. Gerald Wallace. The teddy bearish and improving Cousins, who has just enough nastiness to be a little scary, also can relate.
"I keep telling Jimmer," Jackson added, " 'Trust what you do. If you have to give up the ball, you'll get it back, and if you don't, that's not on you.' And we have to do a better job running him off double screens, off pick-and-rolls, so the defense isn't loading up on him. They're blitzing the heck out of him. But I don't worry about Jimmer. He's going to be a player in this league."