Jimmer Fredette is thankful for the time he spent in Sacramento, but the third year shooting guard is confident he’ll do well in a winning environment in Chicago.
Fredette officially signed with the Bulls early Sunday morning after clearing waivers. Earlier this week the Kings agreed to a buyout with Fredette, whom they selected with the No. 10 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and after he cleared waivers reports indicated that he was interested in joining Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls.
“I see how this team plays, and they play hard every single night, and they play for each other,” Fredette said, standing in front of his Bulls locker with a black No. 32 jersey hanging inside it. “They play the right way, and that’s kind of something I was looking for, to find a team that I could fit in and play the way that I wanted to, and play hard every single night. I’m excited to be here.”
In 41 games, Fredette failed to break through in the Kings’ rotation, averaging just 11.3 minutes per game. He averaged 5.9 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc.
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In two-plus seasons he has made better than 40 percent of his 3-pointers. And while he never really panned out as a lottery pick, Thibodeau said Fredette’s outside shooting and should help him become a contributor for the Bulls.
“I think that he’s more than just a shooter,” Thibodeau said. “I think what he can do in a pick-and-roll can be very effective. He’s very good with the ball. He’s got to learn defensively what to do in terms of team defense, and that’s usually the biggest adjustment. The fact that he can shoot the way that he can, I think that complements our primary scorers as well.”
Fredette, who shares the same agent as Kirk Hinrich, came out of BYU after a four-year career in which he scored 2,599 points and averaged 28.9 points per game as a senior. His outlook as an outside shooter was capped due to the fact that, at 6-foot-2, he was undersized as a shooting guard and didn’t have much experience as a point guard.
Defense has been an issue for Fredette, as he’s recorded negative Defensive Win Shares in each of his three years in the NBA. That should change under Thibodeau, which is one of the reasons Fredette said the Bulls were his choice over a number of other teams that showed interest. Fredette was on the United Center floor an hour before tipoff running sets and speaking with assistants.
“(Thibodeau is) obviously a very defensive-minded coach and obviously I’m trying to learn the schemes right now, and hopefully I can continue to work on that and get better on that end of the floor and help the team out,” Fredette said.
In turn, Thibodaeu said Fredette’s defense is not only important for the Bulls’ newest guard individually, but for the team as a whole. Entering Sunday’s action the Kings were ranked 25th in defensive efficiency, whereas the Bulls were second, behind only Indiana.
“The first part is knowing what your job is, then you have to have the ability to go out and do your job, and also understand how it’s all tied together,” Thibodeau said. “With us it’s five-man offense and five-man defense, so if one guy’s not doing their job it’s going to make the whole group look bad. But from the background on him we like all the things that we’ve heard.”
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Fredette wouldn’t put any expectations on himself – earlier this month he scored a career-high 24 points in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, the Bulls’ opponent Sunday – saying that his first responsibility is to understand Thibodeau’s style which means playing hard, something he tried to do despite limited and inconsistent minutes with the Kings.
“It was character-building for me,” Fredette said of his time in Sacramento, “continuing to go out and play hard and grow as a player, even though sometimes you didn’t get the minutes you wanted. You’ve got to go out and play hard, but if you keep playing hard and do the right things, eventually things will turn your way. I’m hoping that will happen here.”