SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Jimmermania began in Sacramento with hundreds of fans gathered at the airport to cheer the arrival of a player most had only watched on television or read about during the NCAA tournament.
It’s headed for a much quieter conclusion.
As the Kings and guard Jimmer Fredette worked toward reaching a buyout of his contract, the former BYU sensation was not in attendance for Tuesday night’s 129-103 loss to the Houston Rockets. Kings coach Michael Malone said the team advised Fredette to stay home until a resolution is reached.
Malone said he wished Fredette well and believes the third-year guard can carve out an NBA career somewhere — just not in Sacramento.
“For whatever reason, Jimmer was never able to find success, whether they were unrealistic expectations from his college career or whatever it was,” Malone said. “But he just wasn’t able to play to the level that everybody wanted him to play, which is somewhat maybe unrealistic. Maybe we have to temper our expectations for Jimmer and let him just become a solid NBA player. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Fredette, who turned 25 years old Tuesday, is making about $2.4 million this season. He will be a free agent if — and most likely when — he clears waivers.
Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro told reporters at the team’s morning shootaround that he was approached by Fredette’s representatives about a buyout. He said Fredette no longer fits into the team’s plans but Kings owner Vivek Ranadive “loves Jimmer and wants to do the right thing by Jimmer. We’re just talking about things at this point. There’s nothing done at this point.”
A person with knowledge of the discussions, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because negotiations were ongoing, said the sides hoped to finalize an agreement by the end of the week. Yahoo Sports first reported the buyout talks.
Fredette’s locker at the arena also was cleared out.
Fredette was drafted 10th overall in 2011 after dazzling at BYU, where he won The Associated Press’ player of the year award his senior season. Fredette never lived up to the fanfare in Sacramento, though the franchise’s instability — playing for three different coaches, two different ownership groups and constant relocation chatter — didn’t help his cause.
Fredette is averaging 5.9 points and 11.3 minutes this season, shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 49.3 percent from 3-point range. For his career, he’s averaging seven points, 1.5 assists and 1.1 rebounds while shooting 41.6 percent overall, including 40 percent from beyond the arc.
But the same concerns some scouts had about Fredette when he entered the league — his defense, ball-handling skills and ability to score off the ball against bigger and more athletic defenders — persist.
“Every time he shot it, I thought the ball was going in. I will say that,” Malone said.
Fredette’s time in California’s capital city has been nearing an end since the Kings decided not to pick up a team option before this season on his contract for the 2014-15 season. Sacramento also tried to move Fredette before last week’s trade deadline but couldn’t get any suitable deals.
Since Sacramento traded Marcus Thornton to Brooklyn for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans last week, Malone promised to use the remainder of the season to give rookie guards Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum more playing time. That move buried Fredette even further on the bench.
Fredette led the nation in scoring at 28.5 points per game and guided BYU to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament as a senior. Big performances in big games had NBA stars tweeting his name, President Barack Obama mentioning him while filling out his bracket and college basketball fans in a frenzy.
The Kings acquired him in a draft-day trade with Milwaukee as the 10th overall pick. Fans have remained incredibly vocal about Fredette, often screaming at games for him to play more — and cheering louder for him than other reserves when he finally enters. .
Paul Westphal was the only one of Fredette’s three coaches committed to giving him extended minutes. Even that didn’t last long.
Westphal was fired after a 2-5 start in Fredette’s rookie season. Keith Smart and Malone both opted to go away from Fredette in favor of other guards, most notably Isaiah Thomas, who has outplayed Fredette since their rookie season.
“Jimmer knows how to play, he’s a worker, he’s a great kid,” Malone said. “And I just hope that he goes to a team that allows him to play and put him in a position to have success and maybe he can catch on with somebody.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP