Jimmer Fredette, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose

Jimmer Fredette trying to find his way, Kings not helping much

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It’s been a rough rookie year for Jimmer Fredette.

In college he was a pure scorer who could do no wrong, racking up big numbers in the face of double teams while setting his teammates. His team won and he was the Golden Child. In the NBA, with its longer defenders, he is shooting just 36 percent off the Sacramento bench as they lose a whole lot of games. He’s scoring 8.5 points per game but needs 8.3 shots to get there. On defense he is getting exposed and intentionally isolated by opposing teams.

His PER of 10.4 would mean you barely get off the bench most places. The Kings just don’t have a choice (and they rightfully think he can improve with experience, so he gets some hard lessons).

What happened to the gunner Jimmer? Sebastian Pruiti does a fantastic breakdown over at Grantland and the answer is he hasn’t been able to adjust to being less athletic than just about everyone on the court yet. And, the Kings have been playing him out of position.

But things are changing.

Regarding positioning, Fredette has gotten a lot of run as a point guard. He was a decent passer in college, but he was a scorer not a set up man. Why the point now? Well, one reason is Paul Westphal, but that coach has been kicked to the curb. The other issue is the Kings don’t really have a choice. They have Tyreke Evans and then, well, why not give Jimmer a shot?

So how often has Fredette been running the point? According to82games.com, 37 percent of the Kings’ point guard minutes have gone to him. The problem? He’s been very bad during those minutes, averaging 4.6 assists per 48 minutes and 3.5 turnovers per 48. He commits most of his turnovers in pick-and-roll situations, where Fredette loses the ball 14.8 percent of the time. Fredette has been such an ineffective pick-and-roll ball handler because he doesn’t put much pressure on defenses when he uses ball screens.

According to MySynergySports.com, 31.9 percent of Fredette’s offensive opportunities come when he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, and he shoots 35.6 percent in that situation. As already noted he turns the ball over a lot in that role. Bad combo.

But that’s not how any of us pictured Jimmer — we thought more Ray Allen, a guy who can run off screens and catch-and–shoot. Except he is getting very few chances off screens. And that’s on him.

When Fredette moves without the ball, he runs in straight lines, rarely changes his pace, and almost never creates contact with his defender. This allows his defenders to “lock and trail” him, so when Fredette receives a pass the defense is already smothering him. With the defense too close for a catch-and-shoot, Fredette is forced to create a shot using his dribble.

The athletes in the NBA can keep up with Jimmer in a way the defenders in the Mountain West Conference could not. Every shot is contested by a very long arm that closes out quickly.

But the last couple games it has been different — he is 8-of-12 from three his last couple games.

Coach Keith Smart is still having him work off ball screens. However, there is one significant difference between the ball screens Fredette has been using in the past two games and the ones he used the rest of the season. Now, the Kings are setting more screens for Fredette on the side of the court and not at the top of the 3-point line. Sacramento has been pairing him with another primary ball handler like Evans or Thomas and passing to Fredette on the wing.

It’s a start. He has to score if he wants to see the court. Eventually he’s going to have to improve his defense, which is harder because most of the two guards he’s asked to stick with are faster and a couple inches taller. But there is a role out there for Fredette — he can shoot, and if you can put the ball in the basket teams will find a way to use you.

But we are a long way — and a lot of work — from Jimmer being the guy so many hoped he would be.

Dwyane Wade apologizes to Bulls fans after ugly Chicago loss

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Even for an up-and-down Bulls team that has seen some sloppy losses, Friday night’s was ugly. The Atlanta Hawks went on a 36-11 run between the end of the first quarter and the start of the second, they led by as many as 34, and cruised in for the 103-92 win. The game wasn’t that close, the Hawks thoroughly outplayed the Bulls, and after the game ended coach Fred Hoiberg said he and his staff need to reexamine everything.

Dwyane Wade went another direction, apologizing to fans.

Wade was 2-of-10 shooting on the night.

Despite the loss, the Bulls remain tied with the Bucks for the final playoff slot in the East, a race that will likely include Detroit and New York (and maybe Charlotte) and go down to the final days of the season. The Bulls (21-23) can’t have many more games like Friday.

Warriors get 6th straight win, 125-108 over Rockets

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry reacts after making a 3-point basket late in the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Houston. Golden State won 125-108. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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HOUSTON (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 32 points and the Golden State Warriors used a big third quarter to build a huge lead and coast to their sixth straight victory, 125-108 over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

In a matchup of two of the best teams in the Western Conference and All-Star starting guards Stephen Curry and James Harden, the Rockets fell short. Houston, which entered the game leading the NBA with 667 3-pointers, was just 7 of 35 behind the arc. Harden went 0 for 5 and Eric Gordon, who entered the game leading the NBA with 160 3s, missed all seven attempts.

Clint Capela had 22 points and Harden added 17 points with 11 assists for the Rockets, who are third in the West behind Golden State and San Antonio.

The Warriors were up by five at halftime and used a 12-4 run to open the second half and stretch their lead to 74-61 with about nine minutes left in the quarter. Golden State got six points from Durant in that span, including a dunk and a nifty reverse layup.

Houston got four points from Capela after that before Golden State used a 10-2 run, with 3s from Draymond Green and Curry, to make it 84-67 midway through the period.

Golden State pushed the lead to 99-79 entering the fourth quarter.

Houston won the first game against Golden State this season in two overtimes to snap an eight-game, regular-season losing streak to the Warriors. But it was clear the Rockets wouldn’t make it two in a row after they scored just 22 points and went 0 for 10 on 3-pointers in the third quarter.

Houston scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 99-84. But Golden State used a 9-4 run after that to extend its lead to 20 points by the midpoint of the quarter, and many fans started heading for the exits.

Curry finished with 24 points and made five 3-pointers, including one with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining that left the Warriors up 117-93. Both teams cleared their benches after that.

The Warriors led 62-57 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Golden State made 15 of 38 3-pointers. … Klay Thompson added 16 points. … Green had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Rockets: Ryan Anderson had one rebound in nine minutes in his return after missing two games with the flu. … Capela played 21 minutes off the bench in his third game back after missing a month with a fracture on his left fibula. … Sam Dekker had 17 points for his 11th double-digit game this season. …

CHEERING ON THE HOME TEAM

Houston Texans star J.J. Watt cheered the Rockets on from a courtside seat. He received a huge ovation when he was shown on the Jumbotron during a timeout in the second quarter. Watt, who won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, played just three games this season before having season-ending back surgery.

 

Penny Hardaway inducted into Magic Hall of Fame (VIDEO)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 15:  Penny Hardaway attends the Sears Shooting Stars Competition 2014 as part of the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Smoothie King Center on February 15, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic have inducted Penny Hardaway into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.

Hardaway, a game-changing point guard at 6-foot-7, becomes just the fifth player in franchise history to be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. He was enshrined during a pregame ceremony Friday and will be honored during a special halftime presentation during Orlando’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Amway Center.

Acquired by the Magic during the 1993 NBA Draft, Hardaway spent six seasons in Orlando where he averaged 19 points, 6.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.95 steals per game. Hardaway and center Shaquille O’Neal guided the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995 where they lost to the Houston Rockets.

Hardaway remains third on the team’s all-time steals list (718) and fourth in assists (2,343).

Robert Covington with deep, contested three game-winner for Sixers (VIDEO)

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The Sixers have just become fun.

It’s not just Joel Embiid, it’s guards and wings feeling fearless in big game situations. A few games ago it was T.J. McConnell. Friday night, it was Robert Covington.

Down two with 13 seconds left after Damian Lillard missed a free throw, Brett Brown chose not to call a timeout and count on getting a good shot out of the chaos. What the Sixers got was Covington a full step behind the arc with Evan Turner in his face contesting.

It didn’t matter. Bucket. Ballgame.

The Sixers were down 13 at the half and came back to get the win. Sixers fans did get a scare in this one when Embiid left the game for a while and went to the locker room after tweaking his knee landing from a dunk. It proved to be nothing serious and he returned to the game, at which point you could hear and audible sigh of relief from the entire city of Philadelphia.