Only a few miles from the site of Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, before a couple thousand people in an arena primarily used to play minor-league hockey, Jimmer Fredette couldn’t help but think big.
And he hopes his second chance – or more accurately, his sixth chance – is still coming.
Such is the mentality of the NBA Development League, which held its All-Star Game on Saturday in Toronto on the same floor where LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant practiced a couple hours earlier. There was symmetry in that being in the shadow of the big league’s All-Star weekend almost served as a reminder to the D-League’s best that the NBA might not be as far from their reach as they sometimes think.
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“You’re always hopeful,” said Fredette, the MVP of Saturday’s D-League game (with 35 points and eight assists) in which the Eastern Conference squad beat its Western Conference counterparts 128-124. “Everybody in this league, that’s what their dream is. They want to get back or into the NBA, or further their career. That’s what this league is for, and I’m no different.”
Well, he sort of is.
Fredette was the No. 10 pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2011 draft, not long after “Jimmermania” swept college basketball when he was the NCAA’s player of the year as a senior at BYU. He was traded to Sacramento on draft night, played in 179 games for the Kings before being waived and has had stints since with Chicago, New Orleans twice, and San Antonio.
Right now, he’s posting impressive numbers (22.6 points, 4.8 assists) with the Westchester Knicks in the D-League. Someone, he thinks, might notice.
“They want to see fight,” Fredette said.
More than half of the players in Saturday’s D-League game have some NBA experience, the league has a record 19 teams right now – with at least three more planned in the coming years – and the stigma that accompanies going to the minors seems to be diminishing over time.
It’s not an easy climb, but there a colossal potential payoff.
“It’s an opportunity to develop my game,” Fredette said. “That’s what this league is for.”