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Fredette still figuring out how he fits

It’s like saying Rush Limbaugh chose not to talk. Or that Shaun White took fewer risks. Or that Paris Hilton decided against turning on the video camera.

Jimmer Fredette spent his first NBA season struggling in almost every phase a professional existence offers, a No. 10 overall draft pick who forgot an important rule for making what proves to be an impossible transition for most who aspire to play on this stage.

He forgot to be himself.

He – yes, what you are about to read is true – was passive offensively.

He – no, this is not a misprint – consistently passed up shots.

“I have to get back to playing like I did,” he said. “They drafted me to be a scoring point guard. I have to get back playing basketball like I know I can.”

I’m just not certain those he now competes against will allow it.

I’m not convinced he’s good enough.

Maybe the NBA stars eventually will align around his future and determine that Fredette is not skilled enough to be a starting point guard. Maybe they will discover he is just … a guy. One of many.

There are worse fates. The NBA more often than not will find a bench and minutes for someone who can shoot like Fredette. Guys who can stretch defenses usually stick somewhere. It’s the skill that got him here, that gave us three months of Jimmermania. It’s what will decide if he stays.

It might seem an accelerated forecast for someone who soon will enter just his second NBA season, but Fredette’s rookie year in Sacramento exposed him on a nightly basis as unable to defend most anyone he opposed and a player who lost the aggressive nature that helped him become the consensus national Player of the Year as a senior at Brigham Young.

This isn’t just an important summer for him. It’s huge.

The same goes for training camp. Enormous.

At some point, sooner rather than later, the Kings and perhaps the entire NBA will decide just what sort of player Fredette can be at this level.

“He’s a specialist, a great shooter,” Kings assistant coach Alex English said. “He’s getting there. But he has to realize what his (strength is), and that’s as a shooter.”

He averaged 7.6 points during a lockout-shortened season, and if ever there was a player who suffered from no summer league and a full camp as a rookie, it was Fredette. He played 34 percent of Sacramento’s minutes at point guard and wasn’t very good for many of them. Didn’t move without the ball well. Couldn’t defend a lick.

So he is here now, playing on Sacramento’s summer league team, working like crazy to better define his role and recapture at least a semblance of what was a magical offensive game in college.

He’s not close to an elite ballhandler, one reason he made only 32 percent of his shots off the dribble last season. He doesn’t use screens as well as great guards do, meaning he should spend days and weeks and months watching tape of Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton.

You can’t be an effective lead guard in the NBA and not at least be competent off the pick-and-roll, a truth Fredette learned when a high percentage of his turnovers came in those situations last season.

He is strong enough to pressure defenses off screens and yet didn’t show it. For every good decision, he made two or three bad ones. He has to be far more physical and draw more contact.

Not good enough: Fredette shot only 48 free throws over 61 games as a rookie and yet he is smart enough to average at least 5 to 8 attempts a game.

This isn’t Provo, Utah, anymore. Fredette in college faced double-teams more than the Cougars were booed on the road. That doesn’t happen now, because when he over-dribbles from one side to the next and gets into the lane as he did so expertly at BYU, there isn’t a 6-foot-4-inch Mountain West Conference center awaiting him.

There are bigger, stronger, better, more athletic big men.

But he can shoot. He could always shoot, despite the fact he’s 1 of 14 on 3s in two summer league games.

“I was able to be aggressive and play my game,” Fredette said after scoring 15 on Saturday night in an 84-72 win against the Lakers at Cox Pavilion. “A lot of my shots were in-and-out, so I know they will fall. I just have to make good plays, get to the basket, get to the line.”

He has to be himself.

It’s what got him here.

It’s what will determine how long he stays.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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