Commentary

A pressure-drop for Jimmer Fredette

The best thing about the Kings? In Jimmer's case, it's that they aren't the Utah Jazz

Originally Published: June 24, 2011
By LZ Granderson | ESPN.com

Moments after the announcement was made on Thursday night that Jimmer Fredette was going to Sacramento, CNBC's Darren Rovell tweeted that the BYU star "just lost at least $1.5 million in marketing deals he would have gotten if he went to Utah."

Then, in a later tweet: "Jimmer not only loses potential Utah deals, he also loses local deals because Sacto market might not want him if team is lame duck."

No doubt about it. Had the Jazz drafted the local college kid, Salt Lake City might have rolled him out with a Miami Heat-like parade, and Utah governor Gary Herbert might have declared June 23 a state holiday. I was joking with Jazz guard Raja Bell the night before the draft about how Jimmer was going to take his minutes. And it could've happened. Fredette was drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks then traded to Sacramento. The Jazz, who chose Enes Kanter with the third pick in the draft, were lurking two picks later, at 12th.

The night of the draft, Fredette was easily the most popular player in the building.

Jimmer-mania is real. Still.

[+] EnlargeJimmer Fredette
AP Photo/Bill KostrounFor richer or poorer, Jimmer Fredette landed in a good place when the Bucks traded his draft rights to Sacramento.

But even if it costs him a few pennies, it's a good thing the kid is headed to the Kings. Despite his huge following -- and I know I'm going to get bashed for saying this -- Jimmer ain't all that.

Now, that's different from saying he isn't going to be successful. I love his game; and let's face it: Sacramento isn't the only franchise that could have benefited from the kind of positive buzz he brings. Because of that, I was hoping my hometown Pistons would've rolled the dice on him with the No. 8 pick.

But he isn't a franchise savior, and in Utah, his relentless fame would've miscast him in that role. In Sacramento, that won't be the case. The Kings already have budding stars in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins to carry the burden of taking the last-second shot, not to mention the public criticism for the team's failures.

Jimmer can go to Sac-Town, be inconsistent (like most rookies are) and find a way to be a contributor without the pressure that being Jimmer in Utah would have brought.

In NoCal, if he's good enough to start, he will. If not, he'll come off the bench.

In Utah, the public pressure to have him in the starting lineup would've made second-year coach Ty Corbin's life a living hell. Now he gets to see how lottery picks Kanter and Alec Burks (who the Jazz took at No. 12) fit in, as opposed to having to make room for Jimmer.

It's the same reason the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars were wise not to draft their city's homegrown icon, Tim Tebow, in 2010. If the beloved local guy isn't a guaranteed success -- Tebow wasn't, and Jimmer isn't, either -- the last thing you want is for him to be dealing with the pressure of meeting his hometown's expectations as a rookie. And you also don't want a coach to have to juggle PR with plays by giving an undeserving Jimmer minutes over a more productive veteran to appease fans and/or management. That's how resentment creeps into a locker room and into practices.

Sometimes, it's better not to go home again.

[+] EnlargeJimmer Fredette
AP Photo/Bill KostrounMaybe he'd have flourished with the Jazz, but the expectations would've been off the chart.

Sometimes, it's better for a rookie to go to a team on which he can learn the pro game without feeling as if he's letting his entire state down when he falls short of expectations. This way, if Jimmer is a bust in Sacramento, he'll still be worshipped in Salt Lake City. This way, if free agency or a trade down the road brings him back to Utah, fans won't be frothing at the mouth with unrealistic expectations. This way, they can welcome him, knowing exactly what they're getting.

In Sacramento, Jimmer will have room to breathe and work on answering the questions some people still have -- including, apparently, members of the Kings' coaching staff who weren't convinced Fredette is the right player for them, according to reports on Friday -- about his quickness, his size, his defense. Everyone knows he's a great shooter, but he still has to prove he can handle playing point. Those are all legitimate questions, so he'll be under some pressure. But it's nothing like he'd have experienced in Utah.

Again, this is no slam against Jimmer. I just have a sincere desire to see the kid get a fair chance to answer the questions against him.

Not everyone can handle the pressure of playing in his hometown. Look at Stephon Marbury, an All-Star and All-NBA performer the year before he arrived with the Knicks. He was the focus of boos almost as soon as he took the court in New York. Granted, at the time, the franchise was a wreck from ownership on down. But that's only part of the reason he always seemed to be pressing on the court.

I ran into Felipe Lopez in Manhattan this week and couldn't help but wonder how life might have turned out for the New York high school legend if he'd played his college ball somewhere other than at nearby St. John's. Making the transition from a high school kid on the cover of Sports Illustrated to the next level is hard enough without the added pressure of daily hometown expectations.

Now maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe Jimmer would've been just fine in Utah. Maybe his game would've blossomed there and he would've had an All-Star career.

Maybe.

But as a fan, I'm glad he doesn't have to find out.

LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at lzgranderson@yahoo.com.

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Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine