Jimmer Fredette , Kurt Thomas, Nolan Smith

It’s OK if there’s no mania behind Jimmer

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“The first time he didn’t play [on Feb. 2 against Portland], people were calling the paper and pitching their theories,” said Jason Jones, the Kings’ beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. “People don’t want to believe that he might not be ready to play. They want to believe Keith has it in for him.”

The salty swell of support peaked on Feb. 21, when Fredette’s brother and roommate, T.J., saw Jimmer glued to the bench for 48 minutes in a game at Miami and tweeted, “Can we please get rid of this interim coach who should be an assistant at best and bring in a real head coach.” Jimmer quickly apologized on behalf of his brother, who subsequently deleted the tweet and also issued an apology. Smart had a candid moment of his own on March 8, defending his use of Fredette while saying, “If everybody in the world would just leave me alone and let me develop this kid, he’s going to be OK.”

via Jimmer Fredette being brough along slowly by Sacramento Kings – Sam Amick – SI.com.

And that last part is kind of relevant. “OK.”

Now, I’m sure if you were to press Keith Smart he’d talk about Jimmer Fredette being “pretty good” or “great” eventually. But right now? Right now the goal is just OK. And for some reason, people have struggled to accept this. There’s a lingering sense that the player Fredette was in college must be in there, that he has to be waiting to spring forth with magical unicorn bombs from 50 feet. There’s just no way that the player the JimmerManiacs saw tearing it up in the NCAA tournament last year at BYU isn’t the same. Because it’s just basketball, right?

Well, no, not really.

Here’s the thing, the article above is entirely written from the perspective of giving Jimmer time to evolve and improve. And it’s a worthwhile idea. I”m not here to bury a rookie. Guys develop, improve, and regress at very different intervals in the NBA and for the most part, it’s very difficult to predict. Fredette could have a monster sophomore year, and then disappear. There are trends, to be sure. There are probabilities. But to say that players will never change, never improve, that they are who they are is to ignore a world of players like Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, and others who progressed not from the start but who began their careers as one thing and then dramatically shifted a few years in. Fredette can have that kind of career. He’s a good enough… uh… shooter or player, or something to be able to convert those skills.

However, there’s something we’re going to need to get past. Fredette is not stuck on the bench. He’s not being held back. He’s just not very good right now. And Thomas has been excellent. He’s earned is playing time. And all the things we were concerned about with Fredette? They’ve turned out to be true.

Turns out that in the flow of an NBA game, jacking up 45 footers is not a sustainable offensive strategy. It turns out that creating your own shot against players who are twice as fast, long, athletic, and strong as you are is a bit of a trick. And most of all, it turns out that all the concerns about Fredette’s defense weren’t mythical. The kid can’t stick. He should not be on the floor right now and Keith Smart isn’t responsible for making sure Jimmer works out. He’s supposed to make the garbage salad of the Kings turn into a pizza with DMC pepperoni and Thornton sauce. (In this scenario Tyreke Evans is pineapple. The people that like it love it and always want it on, the people that don’t think it’s weird it’s on the pizza.)

Smart isn’t the GM who elected to draft a player who clearly didn’t fit with their roster, nor had the pedigree to compete at the NBA level at the position he was drafted at. Smart wasn’t the coach to weigh in on that decision. This is Smart being stuck with management’s mistake. Again, it doesn’t meant that Fredette can’t work out and be amazing and validate Geoff Petrie and everything. But for right now, it’s not working out, and Smart’s not beholden to making that work. He’s got the Kings playing better with Thomas, with Thornton, most importantly with DMC, you know the players with actual ability at this level.

And this isn’t actually unexpected. Neil Paine at Basketball Prospectus wrote about college All-Americans and the NBA. The trend over the past thirty years? It’s getting harder and harder for amateur stars to convert to pro icons.

The more common outcome for an All-American in today’s game is to be an ordinary starter or even a non-starting rotation regular (33% have met this fate so far). There’s still plenty of time for regulars like Evan Turner and Greivis Vasquez to become starters, and for starters like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins to become All-Stars (in fact, Cousins arguably should have been one this season). But those are the exceptions–in reality, the book is likely already written on most of the post-age-limit prospects produced at college basketball’s highest level, and it’s not filled with anywhere near as many stars as in days gone by, despite the rule forcing elite high school talent to spend a year on campus.

via Basketball Prospectus | Disappearing Act.

There’s hope for Fredette, though.

J.J. Redick was a similar player in college, a three-point sharpshooter, the best in Duke’s history. When he came to the Magic, he got no playing time. None. And he was frustrated, essentially, for two seasons. Stan Van Gundy made it abundantly clear to Redick. Learn how to play defense at this level, you can play. He knew Redick could shoot, he needed him to defend. So Redick hit the weight room, built up his frame, kept his shooter’s touch, and wound up being a huge part of the Magic’s run to he Finals in 2009. Had Orlando not matched his offer from Chicago two years ago, he’d be a better version of Kyle Korver. That’s what Fredette needs to do. Accept it’s going to be rough, accept that he’s not ready, keep bucking to get there and do what is necessary.

In the meantime? You can hope Fredette will work out. You can even have faith that he’ll become the player we all want him to be, the same one who went gonzo in the tournament. But you can’t deny the reality that he’s not ready to play and is a detriment to his team when he’s on the floor right now. It’s not just about patience. It’s about reality and how we deal with it.

LeBron James on surpassing Michael Jordan: “It’s a personal goal”

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Since he was a teenager, LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan. That comparison has usually been used as a way to cut him down or explain why he’s not in the same class, but that’s changed since he won his third championship, and first in Cleveland, in June. Now, LeBron has started to be a lot more open about his desire to eventually surpass Jordan. He said so in an interview with the AP’s Tom Withers after practice on Tuesday:

Now that LeBron James has won a championship for the ages, he’s set a loftier goal:

Catching Michael Jordan.

Long flattered to be mentioned in the same company with Jordan and other NBA legends, James has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that he wants to be remembered as the greatest in league history.

It’s time now.

“It’s a personal goal,” James told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just never brought it up. It’s my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great. I think that should be everybody’s personal goal.”

Now that James has indisputably cemented his legacy as one of the handful of greatest players ever to play the game, he has a lot less to lose by openly talking about these things. Five years ago, he would have gotten killed for bringing it up. Now? It just seems plausible more than anything else.

Kevin Durant says Nike didn’t influence his free-agency decision

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors poses for NBA team photographer Noah Graham during the Golden State Warriors Media Day at the Warriors Practice Facility on September 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Many different factors went into Kevin Durant‘s decision this summer to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors — basketball fit, location, his friendships with Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, and more. But one thing he wants to make sure you know didn’t influence him is Nike. Durant told reporters this week that the shoe company, which he endorses, didn’t steer him one way or another in free agency, and they didn’t even know his plans beforehand.

It’s a little hard to believe that Nike had zero advance knowledge of Durant’s plans — if not a hard answer, at least a strong indication of which way he was leaning. Durant was one of the most popular players in the league in Oklahoma City, so Nike would have been fine either way. But his presence in Golden State, a much bigger market and the dominant story in the NBA this season, will only help them. It doesn’t hurt, either, that they now have one of their biggest athletes in the same market as Stephen Curry, who had been taking advantage of all the attention on the Warriors to raise Under Armour’s profile. Now, Nike can get some of that spotlight back in the Bay Area.

Barnes, Bogut highlight latest round of changes for Mavs

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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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DALLAS (AP) Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut are in, Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia are out and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has a retooled roster for the sixth consecutive time since winning a championship.

“Well, we love it,” Carlisle said at media day this week as someone chuckled. “What’s more exciting than getting seven new guys? New blood. It’s fresh every year.

“Really, that wasn’t meant to be a joke,” he added. “If you view it as a negative, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be a negative. I don’t look at it that way.”

The Mavericks have made the playoffs all but one season since the constant turnover started after owner Mark Cuban chose salary cap flexibility over keeping a few key players when a new labor agreement was reached six months after his team won the title in 2011.

But Dallas still hasn’t won a postseason series since beating Miami in six games in those NBA Finals.

Repeated efforts to land big names in free agency failed, which this year led to the additions of Barnes and Bogut from 2015 champion Golden State after the Warriors lured Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City and had to unload both starters to make cap room for the four-time NBA scoring champion.

Barnes headlines the group of newcomers because he’ll be a top option on offense after signing a four-year, $94 million max contract. Over his four seasons with the Warriors, he was always a role player behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

“It’s going to be bigger expectations and I’m going to have a larger role on this team,” Barnes said. “I feel like we have a lot of pieces this year, either coming back off injury, guys who are motivated, have a lot to prove. So hopefully we can all come together and do something special.”

There’s actually some stability in the starting five because point guard Deron Williams is back for a second season with his hometown team.

Nowitzki, going into his 19th season at age 38, says Williams was the best player on the team at times last season, and the Mavericks missed him in their five-game loss to Oklahoma City. He was limited by a sports hernia injury that required offseason surgery.

Parsons signed a max deal with Memphis, and Pachulia went to the Warriors after the trade that landed Dallas the 7-footer Bogut, who should be a much stronger shot-blocking presence than his predecessor.

The changes fit the formula of at least two new starters each season going back to the title year.

“There are similarities to other years,” Carlisle said. “The ability to add Bogut and Barnes was huge for us. We caught some good luck on that.”

The other notable newcomer is Curry’s younger brother, Seth Curry, who is on his fifth team in his fourth season but finally had a more prominent role last season in Sacramento. Former Baylor standout Quincy Acy is in Dallas after bouncing around his first four years.

The Mavericks are deep at guard with holders J.J. Barea and Devin Harris behind Williams and Wes Matthews, in his second season as the shooting guard and now more than a year removed from tearing an Achilles tendon his final season in Portland.

Also returning are athletic young forwards Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell along with 7-2 Tunisian center Salah Mejri, a surprising shot-blocking presence last season as a 30-year-old rookie.

“They’re definitely athletes and we should be able to have a great defensive lineup once I’m out,” said Nowitzki, poking fun at his defensive skills. “I think we have a (backup) lineup out there that could be really, really good, and obviously youth and athleticism is a big part.”

Barnes wanted to be a part of it even though the Mavericks appear further from championship contention than other Western Conference teams.

“I think when you look at what this franchise has done year in, year out, stable on their ship,” Barnes said. “And be able to learn from a guy named Dirk who’s done it year in, year out. He’s pretty much built this place through his work ethic.”

And now Nowitzki is getting used to another new collection of teammates.

Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

Jazz’s Dante Exum says his knee is completely healed from 2015 ACL tear

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 17:  Dante Exum #11 of the Utah Jazz drives to the lane during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 17, 2014 in Miami, Florida. 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. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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After a promising rookie season, Dante Exum missed all of 2015-16 rehabbing a torn left ACL he suffered during an exhibition game with the Australian national team in summer 2015. As the Jazz kick off training camp, Exum says he’s fully recovered after his year off and he’s ready to go.

Via Jody Gennessy of the Deseret News:

“I was just excited to get back out there,” Exum said after the first of two practices Tuesday. “I was feeling good. … I was just ready to come out there, talk when I can and run between every drill.”

Both his attitude and his body were at 100 percent as he returned from a yearlong rehab that followed his September 2015 surgery on his left knee that had been injured in a friendly international game with the Australian team.

With the Jazz’s trade for George Hill over the summer, Exum won’t have to be the starting point guard, which will take some pressure off of him to get back to full strength right away. A torn ACL is something that usually takes time to return from, and having guard depth to ease his workload will help with the transition. If the Jazz get good production out of Exum, it will be a bonus for what looks to be one of the most exciting young teams in the Western Conference.