Following Tuesday morning’s shootaround, the Kings sang “Happy Birthday” to Jimmer Fredette.
They could have sung a farewell song, too.
The shootaround was probably the last time anyone will see Fredette in Kings gear. The team is negotiating a buyout on the remainder of Fredette’s contract that will give him what he’s wanted long before his 25th birthday – a chance to get out of Sacramento.
The Kings tried to trade Fredette before last Thursday’s NBA trade deadline but were unable to strike a deal.
Fredette, who did not attend Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets at Sleep Train Arena, will be free to join any team and will be eligible to play in the postseason if he is signed by a playoff team.
“I guess wishes do come true on your birthday when you blow out the candles,” Kings forward Jason Thompson said. “He was always one of the first guys in the gym getting shots up regardless of his situation. He was the ultimate pro, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
The buyout will end Fredette’s third and final season with the Kings. The Kings acquired him with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft as part of a trade with Milwaukee and Charlotte.
Fredette was greeted with much fanfare as several supporters awaited his airport arrival in Sacramento the day after the draft.
The hope at the time was Fredette, the consensus college Player of the Year at BYU, would become a capable scoring point guard and bring positive media attention to a team in the news more for relocation rumors than wins on the court.
The Kings needed improved perimeter shooting, and Fredette was one of the best shooters in college basketball.
But many of the questions about Fredette’s game surfaced in the NBA and he failed to become a consistent part of the rotation.
Fredette’s minutes per game decreased each season. He averaged 18.6 minutes as a rookie and was down to 11.3 this season. So even as Fredette’s shooting percentages improved, his scoring topped out at 7.6 per game game as a rookie. Fredette averaged 5.9 points this season.
The reasons Fredette didn’t live up to the hype are many, including his inability to beat out Isaiah Thomas, the last pick in the 2011 draft, for playing time.
Fredette never settled in as a point guard. His ballhandling and inability to separate from defenders were noted shortcomings.
Fredette remained a great shooter, but getting that shot off against bigger, more athletic defenders was a problem.
Coaches believed Fredette was best suited to play off the ball, but that was a tough adjustment for a player who succeeded in college in part because he usually had the ball and was the primary decision-maker.
Then there were Fredette’s defensive shortcomings. Opponents sought him out whenever he was on the court, trying to isolate him and force him to defend.
Coaches tried hiding Fredette, but teams routinely changed their offense in an attempt to exploit Fredette, even as he made strides to play better defense.
The Kings drafted two guards, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum last year and plan to play them a lot to finish the season.
Kings coach Michael Malone said he told Fredette he probably wouldn’t play much the rest of the season, so the buyout is the team’s way of allowing Fredette to move on.
“Very good playoff teams, I think he’d make a lot of sense for,” Malone said. “If you need a guy who can space the floor and give some of these superstars room to operate, you put Jimmer on the floor. He’s going to keep the defense honest because he can shoot the ball, and everybody knows that.”