NBA Sunday: Jimmer Fever in Sacramento
Jimmer Fever Hits Sacramento
When the Sacramento Kings made the decision to select former Brigham Young standout Jimmer Fredette with the 10th pick in the draft, they did so for a number of reasons. Talent, obviously, was one of them, because players don’t get selected in the lottery without a fair amount of that, but commercial appeal was another reason. This is a make-or-break year for the Kings in Sacramento, and on some level there had to be the hope that Jimmer would sell some tickets.
While it’s too early to compare attendance numbers, it’s not too early to look at merchandise. According to CNBC, Kings merchandise sales are up 540% from December of 2010, and three-quarters of that increase is reportedly from sales of Jimmer jerseys and other officially-licensed Fredette goodies.
In short, it looks like Fredette’s charisma, good looks, and general likability have laid the groundwork for him having a similar effect in California as Tim Tebow is having on the NFL’s Denver Broncos. It’s not that Fredette’s Christianity is catapulting him into the spotlight, just that he’s proving to be wildly popular for his new professional team, even though his talent might not necessarily translate to the professional game quite as well as some other rookies in this class.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The parallels between the merchandise sales are interesting, as well. Tebow was the fastest-selling rookie jersey in the history of the NFL, and actually for a time was the best-selling jersey in the league, despite not even having started for Denver at that point. Fredette is at least being given the opportunity to play (24.7mpg), and isn’t even performing all that badly (10ppg on 43% field goal shooting). Still, his immediate popularity despite questionable talent makes some sort of comparison with Tebow inevitable.
Long-term, there’s no telling what kind of NBA player Fredette will be, but early in his career it’s already pretty evident that he’ll have a hard time shooting over taller two-guards, and watching him try to defend Derrick Rose in the team’s third game of the season was laughable. Not everybody will be that tough, but NBA guards are quick, and Fredette is not necessarily known for his defense.
Still, Sacramento clearly loves him, even if he sort of a weird fit on a team that already has two very similar, yet taller and more athletic, players at his position in Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. But we all knew when the Kings made that draft pick that it wasn’t all about talent. It was also about keeping the Kings in Sac-town, and if ticket sales see anywhere near the same sort of increase that merchandise sales have seen this month, the Jimmer pick may save the Sacramento Kings, even if Jimmer’s actual play doesn’t do all that much to help out.
How Is Free Agency Paying Off So Far?
With every team having played a handful of games by now, it’s plenty early enough to look at teams’ new additions and comment on which are fitting the best on their new squads. Here’s a handful of players having a very positive impact for their new employers:
- Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler, L.A. Clippers – We never doubted that CP3 would have a huge impact on his new team, but Billups (16ppg) and Butler (13ppg) also have both looked pretty good in their first handful of games with the Clippers. In fact, those three new additions are three of the team’s top four scorers, three of the team’s top four assist guys, and Paul and Butler are leading the team in steals. After that big a trade, there are inevitably going to be tons of new guys, so there had to be someone who was producing, but these three are producing in a really major way.
- Richard Hamilton, Chicago Bulls – While Rip is only averaging 12 ppg, that’s still about 8 more than their starting shooting guard scored last season. Hamilton’s influence goes beyond that, though; his constant movement keeps Chicago’s offense fluid, and his ability to both initiate and run fast breaks has made life a heck of a lot easier for Derrick Rose. Just having a hungry two guard willing to be aggressive on both ends of the floor is going to transform this team. It actually sort of is already, which goes a long way to explain how the Bulls are 3-1 right now without having even played a home game yet.
- Brandon Bass, Boston Celtics – Losing Glen Davis’ toughness had to have hurt the Boston front office, but let’s face it; most of us knew the Celtics were getting the better overall player in that sign-and-trade when they acquired Bass. Through four games, he’s averaging 15.3ppg off the bench for the Celtics, and even though the team has had a rough time finding wins early on, getting Paul Pierce back should change that. What hopefully won’t change is the excellent season Bass is having already in Beantown.
- David West and George Hill, Indiana Pacers – It took these two guys a few games to find their stride with a completely new team, but Friday night’s win in Cleveland gave us a glimpse of how good this team can be when West and Hill are firing on all cylinders. Both gentlemen have loads of talent as well as postseason experience, and their numbers are only going to get better as the season goes on. Still, West’s 12.5ppg and 9rpg through the first couple of games is pretty respectable, and Hill’s own numbers will get better as his playing time improves.
- Jamal Crawford, Portland Trail Blazers – Nobody should be surprised that Crawford is fitting in so well with the Blazers. That’s his part of the country up there, and after losing Brandon Roy they really needed his scoring punch. So far, 13.3ppg have been a big help for Portland, and that should only get better as he starts hitting a higher percentage of his shots. So far he’s at 35.1% from the field and 27.3% from three.
- Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors – The Indiana Pacers basically discarded this kid as garbage, but he’s finding decent minutes with the Warriors and scoring 12 points a night in the meantime. Looks like he found himself a much better fit, and Golden State should be happy that it’s with them.
- J.J. Barea, Minnesota Timberwolves – Ricky Rubio is the point guard of the future in Minnesota, but Barea scoring 11.5 points in 23 minutes per game is also pretty darn impressive. That’s almost double what Rubio is scoring in 27 minutes a contest, but Barea’s impact in Minnesota also comes from his speaking Rubio’s language and playing the same position, meaning the former Dallas guard isn’t just playing well for his new team; he’s also helping to usher in a more promising future for the club. David Kahn got a lot of flak for signing yet another point guard to the roster, but this particular signing looks like it’s going to be a good one in more ways than one.
- Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets – He’s only been able to play in the one game, but he dropped 20 points right off the bat. We have to think that things will only get better as he finds his groove in the Big Easy.
And none of that even includes the rookie class, which has been more productive than many of us would’ve thought considering how weak the 2011 draft looked. The free agency class was called weak as well, but there are guys paying huge dividends already for their new teams. If there’s anybody I missed, feel free to give them props in the comments section below.
Mavericks Back in the Lead for Fesenko?
It’s been a busy week for free agent big man Kyrylo Fesenko, who many consider to be one of the few impactful free agents left sitting without a job. It seemed like a few days ago he would be taking a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors worth about $1.1 million, but now that both sides have backed away, it appears as though the defending champion Dallas Mavericks are back in the mix and are potentially the favorites to land the Ukrainian center, according to ESPN.com.
The Mavs have just one roster spot left open and can only offer Fesenko a minimum deal, but they really want to add another big to help fill the Tyson-Chandler-sized hole left behind when Chandler bolted for New York in the offseason. Fesenko isn’t the missing piece to repeating as champion, but good size is hard to come by, and that could be a move that helps Dallas weather a slow start to the 2011-2012 season.
Sources expect a decision to be made early this week, with some saying Fesenko could be a Maverick as early as Monday or Tuesday.