OAKLAND – Once the Warriors play their next game, they will have a sharp shooter that can make almost any attempt from any distance.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson won’t be on the floor, though. This time, it will be Jimmer Fredette, who joined the Warriors’ summer-league team in hopes of jump starting a fledgling NBA career.
“I would love to make the Golden State Warriors. I would love to do that and show them what I can do and show what type of worth I have,” Fredette said following practice on Friday at the Warriors’ facility. “Obviously with summer league, a lot of people are watching. You never know who’s going to be watching or anything like that. It’s a good opportunity to play. I’m grateful for the Warriors to give me that chance.”
The Sacramento Kings gave Fredette that chance when they selected him with the No. 10 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, one selection ahead of when the Warriors picked Klay Thompson at No. 11. While Thompson has carved out an eight-year career with three NBA titles, five All-Star appearances and countless shooting records, Fredette lasted only three years with the Kings (2011-14) before making short stops with the Chicago Bulls (2014), New Orleans Pelicans (2014-15) and the New York Knicks (2016). He even played in the NBA G-League in New York (2015-16) and overseas in China with the Shanghai Sharks (2016-19). Fredette returned to the NBA last season with the Phoenix Suns, but they declined to exercise their team option.
It seems fitting Fredette will play with the Warriors beginning with the so-called California Classic in Sacramento (July 1-3) and then in Las Vegas (July 5-15). The Warriors felt compelled to give Fredette a chance on a no-risk, high-reward spot on their summer league roster. If nothing else, the Warriors could give casual and passionate fans a reason to tune in for a potential Fredette highlight reel.
Or perhaps Fredette could impress the Warriors enough to sign him on a regular-season roster. Even if both players stay with the Warriors, both Durant and Thompson will miss significant portions of next season because of respective right Achilles and ACL injuries. Hence, the Warriors could use Fredette’s sharp shooting.
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“I’ll just play my style of basketball,” Fredette said. “I’ll play up and down, share the basketball, as well as make threes and run in transition. That type of game is how I played my whole career. That’s how I made my living in transition with shooting the basketball, spacing and moving the basketball and trying to move without it and score. So I can do well in that system. That’s why I wanted to come here and give it a try.”
If only that is how NBA talent evaluators measured Fredette’s game. Instead, he has struggled to latch onto an NBA team long term because of weaknesses in other parts of his game. Fredette knows them well.
“Defensively, they don’t know if I can play one or two. They don’t know if you can get your shot off,” Fredette said. “They don’t know if you can do everything. I heard it all. I keep plugging along, keep pushing and keep playing my game and keep getting better. I feel like I’m as good as I’ve ever been in my career. I hope to show it.”
The reason for Fredette’s optimism? Fredette said he “was able to work on all aspects of my game” during his three-year stint with the Shanghai Sharks. He also credits his Mormon faith, his wife and two kids for helping him maintain a positive attitude.
Fredette often needed that reminder. He was often known as “The Lonely Master” during his three-year stay in China, which he considered a “double meaning” that soon became part of a slogan for endorsement deals.
“Lonely in Chinese is ‘Jimmo,’ but it sounds like Jimmer,” Fredette said. “So to say my name means lonely. It means you’re on the top of the mountain and know one can reach your level.”
It also meant that Fredette felt isolated other reasons, too.
He struggled with the language and cultural barrier in China. So much that he said he knew only “emergency Chinese” to order food or to give a taxi-cab driver directions. He often lounged in his hotel room out of boredom. Chinese law forbade Fredette to preach about his Mormon faith. He only felt at home when his wife visited him for a six-week stretch at the beginning and end of each season. Meanwhile, the former BYU star wondered if his NBA dream vanished.
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs throughout my whole career,” Fredette said. “Through the whole thing, you have to stay even keel and push forward. I had a lot of great opportunities in my life to go to a lot of cool places in basketball, be successful and make great money and be able to play the game that I love. It’s been a true blessing for me.”
The Warriors will soon find out if they feel the same way about signing Fredette to their summer-league roster.
“I believe I’m an NBA player. I believe I can do really great things and be able to help a team in some way,” Fredette said. “I wanted to give that one more opportunity and be with my family and be able to live here. We’ll see what happens.”