1. Jimmer's Time Running Out In Sacramento?
LAS VEGAS -- Jimmer Fredette has spent his entire NBA career searching.
Searching for a position. Searching for a role. Searching for his shot. Searching for an identity.
All to no avail.
So on the night he heard that the Sacramento Kings had acquired yet another small, ball-dominant, shoot-first point guard in Aaron Brooks, effectively pushing him to third on the depth chart at the 1, or at best, behind Marcus Thornton at the 2, Fredette reverted back to the time when he had it all.
After starting 1-for-6 from the floor, the second-year guard seemed well on his way to a third straight rough outing here at Las Vegas Summer League. But in classic Fredette fashion, he kept firing away, ultimately finishing with 30 points on 10-for-21 shooting in a 113-91 loss to the Houston Rockets at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Just as Jimmer's time seemed like it was ending, it was Jimmer Time once again.
"That's what Coach [Keith] Smart was saying -- 'When you're on the floor, just be you,'" Fredette said. "'Go be aggressive. That's why we have you -- to score the basketball. That's why you're here. That's what makes you most effective when you get on the floor.' So that's what I did today."
But being himself on the floor is what put him in this predicament.
Fredette earned his rock-star status, particularly among the Mormon community, by becoming the preeminent scorer in the college game at Brigham Young. As a senior, Fredette averaged an NCAA-best 29 points a game, helping to lift the Cougars to a three-loss regular season and into the national spotlight. Everything revolved around Jimmer, and so Jimmer took as many shots he could get his hands on, ultimately finishing his final year with the highest shot percentage and second-highest percentage of possessions used in the country.
But that center-of-the-universe style -- along with concerns about his lack of size, defense and court vision -- led to doubts about his ability to transition to the pro game. Which ultimately led to the Kings trying to shift Fredette to point guard after reaching for him at No. 10 in last year's draft.
After spending four college seasons searching for his own shot, he was now tasked with finding opportunities for others.
But Fredette never seemed comfortable in his new role, at times overcompensating by passing too often. After opening the season as the starting point guard, Fredette eventually lost his spot to a fellow rookie, the pint-sized Isaiah Thomas, and went on to average just 7.6 points on 38.6 percent shooting (36 percent from 3-point territory) with a player efficiency rating of 10.64.
"I think it was more of a mindset of myself," he said. "They really stressed it this week, to go out there and do that. My mindset, I wasn't being me [during the season]. I wasn't being as aggressive as I should've been. I passed up some shots and everything, just trying to fit in. That's not my game, that's not what I should be doing. But that's what the coaches have been really, really stressing this summer: Just go out there and play."
So that's exactly what Fredette did.
And in doing so, he showed exactly why he wasn't asked to continue that role in the NBA in the first place.
Sure, Fredette got his points, even earning eight trips to the free throw line in the process after averaging only 3.5 a game during the regular season. But he did so to the detriment of his teammates.
Against the Rockets, Fredette could often be seen dribbling the air out of the ball along the arc, attempting to find an opening in the lane in which to explode through and virtually ignoring those around him. Even with Thomas Robinson, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft, by his side, Fredette stayed focused on his own shots. And while enough fell to give him a gaudy final line, his team also lost the game.
Fredette said he heard just before he hit the floor that the Kings may have acquired Brooks but dismissed the notion that it had anything to do with how he performed, or how many shots he took.
But it sure looked like he was trying to prove a point.
He made one, all right.
"Some games you don't have it, but if you get enough shots you're gonna find it, especially if you're a shooter," he said. "You're gonna make one, see the ball go in the basket, and it's gonna keep going in. And that's what you do as a shooter."
As he showed on Monday, everything is worth a shot.
Justin Verrier is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
2. More Mature Bledsoe Back In Vegas
Matched up against former Kentucky teammate John Wall in both players' NBA debut, Bledsoe scored 17 points, corralled 6 rebounds and dished out 4 assists. He also rolled his eyes at teammate DeAndre Jordan when the big man botched a finish, chirped at officials, turned the ball over 10 times and exerted far less defensively than his long frame affords him.
Two years later on the same court, Bledsoe was back in Las Vegas as a seasoned playoff veteran. There wasn't even a faint trace of the petulance. When second-year big man Trey Thompkins missed a jam on the break, Bledsoe was the first guy over to offer encouragement.
Bledsoe hounded the Minnesota Timberwolves defensively, pouncing from the corner to jump passing lanes, then racing the length of the floor with the resulting steal.
Offensively, Bledsoe ran the Clippers' summer league squad with a calm authority. He primarily looked to create shots off penetration for shooters, and finished the night with 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists in a loss.
Most aggressive young players grow naturally over time, but Bledsoe was quick to attribute his maturation to spending time as an apprentice to a slew of veteran point guards.
"I've gotten a whole lot better," Bledsoe said. "Especially watching Chris [Paul], Chauncey [Billups] and Mo [Williams], three great point guards in this league, watching them pick their team up after a bad play."
With Williams now in Utah and Billups almost certain to begin the season on the injured list, Bledsoe will be thrust into a larger role for the Clippers in 2012-13. The team advanced to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since moving west in 1978. They likely wouldn't have done so without Bledsoe, whose defense and change of pace propelled the Clippers during crucial junctures of their barnburner against Memphis in the first round.
As a player, Bledsoe has turned intangibles like patience and body language from shortcomings to assets. Now comes the mechanical stuff -- the ability to drain shots consistently so defenses don't sag off him by seven feet. Already an exceptional ballhawk with crazy length, Bledsoe could be an elite defender if he can continue to pick up new tricks.
As the Clipper with the greatest opportunity for a quantum leap next season, Bledsoe becomes essential for a team that wants to secure Paul's services for the long term and play late into spring.
Kevin Arnovtz covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
3. Dallas' Jones Trying To Find Balance
LAS VEGAS -- Dominique Jones, like so many combo guards before him, is still finding the balance between his innate drive to score and his conveniently adept ability to make plays for others. It's basketball's own clash of nature and nurture, as an aggressive, ball-handling bucket-getter attempts to rein in his instinct to use every screen as a mechanism to launch himself toward a shot at the rim -- regardless of what other options may open up along the way.
We've seen both of Jones' divergent mentalities at work in the Dallas Mavericks' first two summer league games. Dallas' Las Vegas premiere showcased Jones in a state of nature: With the ball in his hands and no more qualified teammate around to hoist up shots, Jones went on to drop 32 points on 25 attempts on Sunday. He looked every bit as dominant as his scoring total suggests, but he went away from his stated summer league mission statement.
"[I'm working on] just being better at reading the floor and being more effective with the ball in my hands as the point guard," he said.
Being a nominal point and attacking the basket aren't mutually exclusive, but it was the way that Jones went about scoring that created some discord. Hard drives from a guard as skilled and strong as Jones would only naturally rip apart summer league competition, and while his explosion was certainly impressive, it didn't much comply with what he set out to do.
But a new day brought a new disposition. Jones opened up the floor and his field of vision a bit in his Monday encore, and was the propelling force behind a more balanced offense and a more successful overal effort.
"You just have to adjust," said Jones, who finished with 21 points on 6-for-12 shooting in the Mavs' 85-75 win over the Toronto Raptors. "Once you see [the defense] play a certain offensive set one way, you know what to do the next time, and depending on how they react, you know what to do the next time. It's a flow game."
That it is, and Jones is still sorting out the ebbs of it. We know that Jones can score and we know that he can pass, but when might we see a true convergence of two partly effective players into one far more useful whole?
4. Coach's Corner
ESPN.com's head coach, David Thorpe, gives his impressions on Austin Rivers, who had six points for the Hornets on Monday.
Rivers is not the first son of a former NBA player or famous coach to be a little arrogant. Nor is he the first guy who will play point guard a lot in the NBA after playing off the ball in college.
However, he is among the most polished guards I've seen in years at using ball screens at his age, which is one of the reasons why the New Orleans Hornets drafted him so high. His understanding of how to attack the sharpest angle possible, while also changing gears, will help him penetrate most defenses this season. He combines that skill with patience, which is impressive for a 19-year-old player.
Though he's not fast or bouncy, he is quick and has excellent footwork and timing on isolation opportunities, making it tough for defenders to stay in front of him. Rivers does not have special vision, but he does have a high basketball IQ, so he knew when it was time to move the ball either to keep a good flow going or to hit the man ready to make a shot. He clearly thought about getting and keeping his teammates involved from the opening tip.
His lack of explosiveness will hurt him as a finisher in traffic, as it did on Monday, but he'll get better at that in time as his body strengthens. Until then, adding more of a floater or midrange game will pay immediate dividends.
The bottom line is, the young man gets by guys with relative ease. His shooting game is behind the dribble attack part of his arsenal, but that is going to come as well as he gets to spend more time than ever before in the gym. He shouldn't have any problem being a point guard in the NBA.
David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for Scouts Inc. Follow him on Twitter.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Best Of The Night
Ed Davis, Raptors: The versatile big man showed off all his skills in the Toronto Raptors' 86-76 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Davis scored 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field to go along with seven rebounds and played assertively in the paint all afternoon.
7. Worst Of The Night
Los Angeles Lakers: We may just make this a daily thing. After nearly getting doubled up in their summer league debut, the Lakers gave up 106 points to a rather awful Miami Heat roster while mustering only 56 points themselves.
8. Up And Adam
9. Quote Of The Night