Considering that he was once the nation’s leading scorer as a BYU star, the 17 points Jimmer Fredette scored in Monday night’s 108-95 Bulls’ win over the Magic at the United Center was a rather modest total.
But for the reserve guard, who’s seen scant playing time since being acquired after being bought out by Sacramento, it was simply a pleasure to be a factor in a game that still means something. It doesn’t matter that he Fredette got his playing time because of the absence of D.J. Augustin — the Bulls’ regular backup point guard missed the game due to the birth of his son earlier Monday — just that he was a contributor.
“It’s been awesome to be with this team and see how their team camaraderie is, and see how they play basketball. So it’s been awesome to be part of the squad and to get some minutes, and to be able to help out with a win felt really good,” Fredette explained. “It felt very good. I was able to contribute in a meaningful game for us to try to help us get another win and get closer to our goal of trying to get that [No. 3] seed, and we’ll see how things go, but it felt really good to play.
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“It’s something I’ve done a lot in my career so far, so you’ve just got to continue to be prepared and be professional, and like I said before, you never know when an opportunity’s going to come. So you’ve got to be able to take advantage of it when you get minutes and hopefully I was able to do that tonight,” he went on to say. “You always want to play as a competitor, but at the same time, you’ve got to be a good teammate and make sure your teammates know that you’re supporting them, and continue to do that. Whatever it is my role is on this team, that’s what you have to embrace and do the best job you can at it.
“You’re just trying to shrink the moment, and know that you’ve got to go out there and help the team, and not worry about yourself. Not worry about necessarily you have to play unbelievable right now. You’ve just got to go out there, do whatever it takes to help the team win because I feel like if you’re out there helping the team win, that’s the going to show good things on its own. So you’ve got to know that your teammates are out there, play with each other and do a little bit to make plays.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who played Fredette a season-high 31 minutes, was pleased with the fan favorite’s performance, judging him by how the team played as a whole.
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“When I look at the overall, the scoring was terrific. I thought the ball movement throughout was very good. I thought everyone was making quick decisions, high assists, low turnovers and everyone involved. So to me, you judge your point guard by how your team functions. So I thought he did a great job with that and I thought his ball pressure was very good. So that’s encouraging. Tony, I thought, was very good also defensively and he made some shots, which opened up things so we could get some cuts and some easy baskets,” the coach said, including Snell, who scored 13 off the bench himself. “It tells you that they’re staying ready and they’re prepared. The first part of that is knowing what your job is. The second part is when you get called upon, to go in there and do it, and we’re counting on everybody. So I thought Jimmer was very, very good and I thought Tony was, as well. So that’s a big plus for us.
“I thought he and Tony did a great job of filling in. I thought that was a big plus for us.”
Bulls’ All-Star center Joakim Noah chimed in: “I think it just shows a lot about Jimmer’s character. Not being able to play for such a long period and coming in when his number’s called, and performing the way he performed, it just shows you how hard he works every day in practice. For him to come in and deliver like that without having played in such a long time, it just shows what kind of worker and what a real professional guy he is. Jimmer is a really good player.”
Fredette himself admitted that he was a bit rusty after not seeing regular action in a Bulls uniform, but insisted that he’s adjusted to the Bulls’ system and was comfortable running the offense.
“A little bit in the first half. Try to get your legs under you and some of my shots were short, so I tried to correct it and coming back in the second half, it was much better,” he said. “I’ve played on the ball most of my career, but I can play both. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable in the league playing off the ball, as well, because I’ve been able to do that. So whatever’s going to get me on the floor, that’s what I want to do.
“I feel good with the terminology on offense. Tonight was the first time I was actually able to get out there with the guys and play with that first unit, and see how things were going. So I felt more comfortable as the game went on and I feel like I’ve got a good grasp of the terminology because of practice,” Fredette continued. “You’ve just got to know terminology and then, once you get terminology down, trust your defense. Know that if they want you to keep it on the sideline, you better keep it on the sideline because your guys are going to be there to help and that’s what you’ve got to do. So terminology is the biggest thing.
“It’s definitely different. It’s different than in Sacramento, so I’m learning a lot. It’s different terminology, different team, different personalities, different coaches and everything. So it’s definitely different, but I’m really enjoying it here in Chicago. It’s a great organization and a great group of guys here, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Despite Fredette’s effort, Thibodeau said he wouldn’t deviate from his normal rotation when Augustin returns and heading into the postseason.
“No, other than we have a lot of confidence in both Tony and Jimmer, and if there’s injury, then we’re not going to hesitate to go there,” Thibodeau explained. “But we feel good about our rotation.”
For his part, while Fredette is certainly aware of the success other sharpshooting guards — from Augustin to predecessors Nate Robinson, John Lucas III and C.J. Watson — have had with the Bulls, but will weigh all of his options carefully in the offseason.
“Obviously they have been,” Fredette said of the aforementioned guards’ success in Chicago. “It’s not something I’m necessarily thinking about too much right now. We’ve still got a lot to go in this season, but when we cross that road, I’ll definitely be prepared to make the best decision for me. But this is a great spot and obviously they have a great track record of that.”