Jimmer Fredette’s short and painful Kings career is nearing its final excruciating hours. This mutual agreement to part ways? In Little League, it’s known as the mercy rule.
If the parties agree on a buyout for the remainder of the season, as is expected, Fredette has an opportunity to sign elsewhere, the coaches and front-office executives distance themselves from yet another player who doesn’t fit their plans, and Kings fans gain some much-needed separation from one of the most popular, if polarizing, figures in recent franchise history.
And by the way. Fredette can play. Mostly, Fredette can shoot, a skill that will remain coveted as long the ball is round. In a league where teams routinely shoot below 40 percent – check the box scores these days – the third-year veteran converted 47.5 percent of his attempts from the floor and 49.3 percent from three-point range despite erratic playing time.
His departure nonetheless was virtually assured last October when the team declined to pick up his $3.1 million option for next season. When potential trades failed to materialize prior to last Thursday’s deadline, majority owner Vivek Ranadive agreed to buy out the remainder of his $2.57 million salary and enable the former BYU standout to sign with another organization.
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The Kings, in essence, did Fredette a favor. He wasn’t going to play and he didn’t want to sit. So good for him and good for them. Once the agreement is finalized, he can entertain offers from other teams, and preferably, from playoff-bound teams.
“I fully understand our league and the process, and who we are right now,” Kings coach Michael Malone said before Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets. “We’re trying to do right by our guys, while also trying to put a team together for the future that this city can be proud of. We are trying to find our group and our foundation that we can move forward with, and hopefully get this thing moving in the right direction.”
That direction didn’t include Fredette, whose departure leaves DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Isaiah Thomas and Travis Outlaw as the only players remaining from last season’s squad. Additionally, general manager Pete D’Alessandro – who plans to audition players on 10-day contracts – acquired and traded Greivis Vasquez and Luc Mbah a Moute within a matter of a few months. The new regime’s motto seems to be this: keep making moves until you get it right.
With Cousins established at center and Rudy Gay upgrading the small forward position, the search for a starting point guard and a rim-protecting power forward once again dominate the conversation. D’Alessandro and front-office executives Mike Bratz, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond have been scouting college prospects extensively, with Bratz currently in the midst of his second overseas trip.
But, as always, the NBA draft comes with a buyer-beware caveat. Fredette, who undoubtedly spent most of his 25th birthday Tuesday packing his belongings, offers a classic example of the fickle nature of the league’s annual player feeding frenzy.
A prolific, at times spectacular college scorer, he was burdened from the start by unreasonable expectations, an ill-conceived roster and the lack of a true position. Selected 10th in 2011 ahead of Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic and Kenneth Faried, among others, and well ahead of No. 60 draft pick Isaiah Thomas, Fredette was greeted by an ecstatic overflowing crowd. He was the darling of the community before he stepped onto the court for his first practice, and when he did, he was almost immediately outplayed by the less-heralded Thomas.
While he improved various aspects of his game, the circumstances changed very little. The backcourt remained crowded and undersized. All three of his Kings coaches – Paul Westphal, Keith Smart and Malone – expressed frustration at his lack of foot speed and inability to stay in front of his man. And about that position. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Fredette has the physical dimensions but not the ballhandling skills of a point guard. He is most effective in catch-and-shoot situations, particularly in transition or behind screens, and there were too few of those opportunities as well.
But on a team with established passers and facilitators, with fewer dribble-heavy, one-on-one players, Fredette could be a consistent, off-bench contributor. That has to be his hope, has to be his plan.
“He’s not a good shooter, he’s a great shooter,” reminded D’Alessandro, “and like anything in the NBA, sometimes it works in one place and not in another.”