Jimmer Fredette tentatively agrees to join Bulls


Mar 1

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Get ready for eight minutes of Jimmer-mania?

Perhaps as Jimmer Fredette late Saturday afternoon cleared waivers after a buyout from the Sacramento Kings. Fredette, according to sources, tentatively agreed to sign with the Bulls. It’s still unofficial. If it finally occurs, it would be a prorated minimum for the remainder of the season for the former college player of the year.

The former Brigham Young University star who became one of the most popular players in the NCAA for his dashing shooting game negotiated the buyout after three disappointing seasons. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft averaged seven points in just under three seasons, playing about 15 minutes per game, though often sitting out in coach’s decision.

Fredette will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. So this period also will give the Bulls a chance to watch him and get to know him better to determine whether they might want to add him for next season or for him to decide if he would like to return to the Bulls.

Fredette will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. So this period also will give the Bulls a chance to watch him and get to know him better to determine whether they might want to add him for next season or for him to decide if he would like to return to the Bulls.

His smallish size for a shooting guard at about 6-2 and defensive limitations along with a surfeit of guards were considered the reasons he never got a full chance to be a regular rotation player.

Typical of his career with the Kings was when he had 24 points in 27 minutes in a win over the Knicks last week and the next game played four minutes and had three points. He was averaging 5.9 points this season in 11.3 minutes per game, but shooting an impressive 49.3 percent on three pointers.

With the Bulls last in the NBA in scoring, 28th in overall shooting and tied for 26th in three-point shooting and three-point attempts, the addition of a player like Fredette should help. The question, obviously, with the team in its best run of the season at 32-26 as it hosts the Knicks Sunday is how to fit in someone unfamiliar with the team and who hasn’t played regularly.

The Bulls also are a defensive oriented team. They’ve worked in D.J. Augustin, who isn’t a top defender, but is able to prosper because he often plays alongside Kirk Hinrich or Jimmy Butler, among the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. It could be problematic to try to pair Fredette with Augustin. And Augustin has proven too valuable to limit his playing time. But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had proven deft in melding guards into his system.

And spot up shooting players like Fredette tend to be the easiest to work into a team because they won’t handle the ball as much and thus not have to work on their timing with other players as intensely. Though Fredette does like to play with the ball in his hands and shoot off the dribble at times.

Fredette, 25, is regarded as a high character person and good teammate, unassuming though confident and someone who should be able to fit in with a welcoming and unselfish Bulls group. His ability to stretch the floor and open the court, theoretically, should be helpful. The larger question would be how long he could play given the defensive questions and whether his playing would inhibit the development of rookie Tony Snell, who has been improving with regular playing time recently.

Those questions will surface as Fredette works his way in with the team, though this late in the season the Bulls rarely scrimmage. So it would be a slower process than earlier in the season, though that is similar for all the buyout players joining teams late, like Glen Davis, Caron Butler and Danny Granger.

Fredette because of his shooting seem as good a fit as any for the Bulls needs.

He will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. So this period also will give the Bulls a chance to watch him and get to know him better to determine whether they might want to add him for next season or for him to decide if he would like to return to the Bulls. Of course, financial issues and roster decisions will also factor into the choices.

Another question is who exactly is Jimmer Fredette?

Is he just the next Tim Tebow, a popular, if flawed, professional athlete who will have a short NBA career. Or can he be someone like Steve Kerr, a marginal NBA undersized shooting guard who averaged fewer than three points per game playing in Cleveland and Orlando the season before coming to the Bulls and turning into one of the elite reserve shooting specialists in NBA history.

Fredette’s given name is James. The story goes his mother wanted something unique and decided on Jimmer. His has become a legendary David and Goliath tale of the little kid going up against and succeeding against the big stars.

Fredette supposedly made three-pointers as a five year old, though that sounds apocryphal. He’s had a supportive family, which has helped grow the legend with stories like that.

But he did become a high scoring high school star in little Glen Falls, N.Y., near Albany in east central New York State. He had a dozen games of at least 40 points as a senior, but playing in the smallest conference he wasn’t highly recruited and went to Brigham Young because of his Mormon family.

Fredette played off the bench as a freshman, averaging seven points and then was second high scorer as a sophomore, averaging 16.2 points and named all-conference, though again in a small conference.

But then the legend began with extraordinary shooting performances and scoring in his junior season, 49 points against Arizona, 45 over TCU, 37 points and two three-pointers in double overtime to beat 10th seeded Florida in the NCAA tournament. As a senior, Fredette led the nation in scoring with games like 47 points at Utah, 43 against San Diego State and 52 points against New Mexico to break Danny Ainge’s school scoring record. Brigham Young got to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years with a win over Gonzaga before losing in overtime to Florida. He averaged 28.9 per game as a senior.

Was it Pete Maravich or Alfredrick Hughes?

Fredette was the darling of college sports and won virtually every major award from the AP’s prestigious national player award to awards named for Oscar Robertson, John Wooden and James Naismith. He won an ESPY award for top male college athlete and President Obama discussed him on his ESPN tournament bracket picks.

It was Jimmer-mania.

The sentimental NBA draft choice was with Utah, which had the No. 3 pick and went for center Enes Kanter. The Bucks selected him at No. 10 but traded him to the Kings along with John Salmons. The Bucks got Stephen Jackson and a pick they used to select Tobias Harris, whom they later traded for J.J. Redick. Selected immediately after Fredette were Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic and Iman Shumpert. The Bulls selected Nikola Mirotic No. 23 in that draft and Jimmy Butler at No. 30.

Fredette became an instant fan sensation in Sacramento. Merchandise sales quintupled and his No. 7 jersey sold out immediately. He wore No. 32 when he came to Brigham Young. Tornike Shengelia now wears No. 7 for the Bulls.

Fredette scored 21 points in a preseason game with his often off balanced shooting style and able to put the ball on the floor some. It was the lockout season with no training camp and then coach Paul Westphal fired a few games into the season with the erratic DeMarcus Cousins acting out and the little guard that become a starter was Isaiah Thomas. Fredette averaged 10.2 the first six games, but his playing time was erratic. He averaged 7.6 points in 18.6 minutes for the season, which would be his high with the Kings.

The Kings brought in Aaron Brooks, another small guard, the next season and also had Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton and then Greivis Vasquez. The Kings opened the season against the Bulls and Fredette played six seconds in yet another lost and losing season in Sacramento, though the team won the right to remain in Sacramento. Fredette shot almost 42 percent on threes his second season, but his playing time declined. He played as much as 20 minutes just 13 times that season.

At the beginning of this season, the Kings declined Fredette’s fourth year option, making him a free agent after this season. It also effectively meant the Kings no longer had interest as they drafted shooting guard Ben McLemore. They made efforts to trade him and then just decided to pursue a buyout with Fredette having played less than 10 minutes in 11 of his last 17 Kings games.

Fredette is the Bulls’ fifth collegiate player of the year in addition to Michael Jordan, Elton Brand, Jay Williams and Scott May.

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