My first experience with the Sacramento Kings goes something like this. I can remember vividly sitting in the top row of Arco Arena as a 9 year with my dad and best friend at the time, Matt Wold. I don't remember who we played, I just remember being in awe of this game I loved to play in my drive way in Foothill Farms. I can remember the next season we got the opportunity to sit in one of the suites, as a courtesy of former State Assemblyman Brooks Firestone. We got to go stand court side during warm ups. I remember asking Cherokee Parks for his autograph (because he was the closest player to me), he told me I didn't really want it. I've remembered that for some reason. I was a fan before these events, but their is something about experiencing it in-person thats makes it so memorable.
I had a similar experience with a certain point guard from BYU named Jimmer Fredette. I moved to Provo in August of 2008 with the hopes of getting into BYU. After two years of persistance and commuting to Salt Lake City for an associate's degree, I finally got into to my father's Alma Mater; the only team I ever rooted for with the same passion as the Sacramento Kings. I remember going to a basketball game with some roommates during the 2009-10 season. Again, I don't remember the opponent but I do remember being in awe. This time it was just for the game, but for what one player was able to do. Jimmer put a show on in the Marriott Center that night. He would pull up from beyond deep. He would slash and drive to the basket, absorb contact and float the ball high off the backboard and in with ease. It got to the point, especially during this past year, when everything that left his hands, no matter how ridiculous it seemed, was going to go in. I never had one of those, "What is he thinking?" moments. Every shot was a good shot.
I remember debating with some old high school friends back in January, just before Jimmermania really took off, that he would be the steal of the draft. I thought he would continue to fly under the radar and surprise people. ESPN and an unforgettable performance in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah changed that. Jimmer became a household name over night. He was in high demand from media outlets nationwide. There was no flying under the radar anymore.
Throughout Jimmer's senior season I routinely thought about how fun it would be to see Jimmer play in a Sacramento Kings jersey. I can remember having that exact though on New Year's eve at the Marriott Center in section 129. BYU handled NAIA foe Fresno Pacific in their last warmup before the Mountain West conference season was to begin. I thought about how great it would be to continue to root for a player I admired, both for his on-the-court and off-the-court achievements. Of course I would wish him well wherever he went, but it wouldn't be with the same passion if he was playing for the Celtics, or the Magic or the Rockets. Those weren't MY teams. I wanted him to play for MY Sacramento Kings.
Fast forward to NBA Draft lottery night. I can remember the reaction when the Kings landed the number 7 pick. It was another disappointing fall in the long history of the Kings lack-of-success in moving up in the draft lottery. A broken down fan base was once again left wondering when we would get any kind of luck on draft lottery night. I was an exception to that line of thinking. I knew the Kings had gapping hole at many points in their roster, but they were a young team that needed two things more then anything else (this is my own opinion), veteran experience and outside shooting. You don't find veteran experience through the draft. So that left outside shooting. There was not a better shooter in this years draft than Jimmer Fredette. I tweeted the following on the night of May 17th.
I am not saying I had any kind of read on Geoff Petrie or special "source," but I knew Jimmer would be a great fit and fill a big need for the Kings. Now I know Jimmer was selected at #10 and not number #7, but either way he is coming to Sacramento and thats all that matters to me. (I mean seriously, who could have seen that John Salmons deal coming? Not I)
A great argument for Jimmer to the Kings was made (indirectly), by TNT's David Aldridge in the Follow Jimmer series on YouTube. His exact comments can be found here. He says for Jimmer to succeed a team needs to create space. If said team has a double-team commanding low post threat (DeMarcus Cousins) and a slashing wing (Tyreke Evans), he will be able to thrive around the three-point line. This is the exact reason why I think Jimmer will have a very productive professional career in Sacramento. Not only will these up-and-coming teammates help create space for Jimmer, but he will be able to do the same for them. Defenders will have to play honest defense on Jimmer. He has a quick release on his shot, so getting it off will not be an issue in the NBA (in my opinion).
Anyone looking for Jimmer to play the same "style" he did in college, with the 9 second shot clock and routinely pulling up from 35 feet to bury a 3 might be disappointed. He will have to develop his distribution skills more fully. While was very good at finding the open man at BYU, he will play a facilitator roll first before looking for his own show. Thats not to say that he will never look to shoot, but it will likely be his job to balance shot attempts between Tyreke, Demarcus and the rest of the team. He played the "secondary scorer" roll his sophomore season averaging 16.2 points and 4.1 assists per game. Obviously those assits numbers will need to improve, but playing with better talent at the professional level will see those numbers go up automatically. If Jimmer can develop into a 12-15 point, 8-10 assist per game player, he will have a long and illustrious career in the Association.
Also, Jimmer brings more to the table then on-the-court effort and results. He is a marketing dream. He is an average looking guy that you might run in to at any restaurant or see working at your local hardware store, but he has an insane ability for putting an orange ball in a round basket. People love this kid because he looks like them, which means he shouldn't be able to do what he does. I remember seeing Jimmer on campus once or twice this past year. Other then the fact that everybody within 500 feet was looking at him, he looked totally normal. The Sacramento Kings marketing team (which has been working in conjunction with the NBA's top marketing people over the last two months) will put this kid out there for all to see. He, along with Tyreke and Demarcus, will be the face of this franchise. Anyone who thinks they won't be able to see Jimmer play because he will be in Sacramento is just a little short of foolish. Do you really think ESPN and TNT will forego showcasing this ratings bonanza? Winning will be a must, but I can promise you that we will see the Sacramento Kings on a national level much more this next season then the last one. And the fans in Sacramento? Well today Jimmer met his newest supports. This is much needed excitement for a fan base that almost lost it's team 2 months ago.
It was just a thought, a dream seven months ago. To have a my favorite college basketball player be drafted by and play for my favorite sports franchise of all-time. I guess I get counted among the lucky ones. I feel like I am in for an awesome ride over the next few years and I look forward to it anxiously.
As Karen Carpenter famously sang, "It's only just begun."