PHOENIX — When Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker went down with a sprained ankle midway through the first quarter, it was bad news for the Suns, but good news for former BYU star Jimmer Fredette, who got the chance to see extended NBA minutes for the first time in four seasons.
Fredette played 22 minutes, the most since March 2015 when he played for New Orleans. Like he did that night against Golden State, Fredette scored 10 points Wednesday, as he sank 5 of 11 shots and also came up with two steals, a rebound and an assist.
Since signing a two-year deal with the Suns on March 21, the second year being a non-guaranteed team option, Fredette has seen his share of ups and downs.
The former BYU star played briefly in his first game at the place he began his NBA career in Sacramento and then came to Utah, where he really struggled with a 1-for-10 shooting night. Then he didn’t play in the next two games, but in between flew to Denver to be with his wife, Whitney, for the birth of their second child.
His fifth game was Monday night, when he received a nice ovation from the home crowd in his first game at Talking Stick Arena and he had his best game with six points in six minutes on 2-of-3 field-goal shooting.
When Fredette entered Wednesday night’s game at the 1:35 mark of the first quarter, he was greeted by loud cheers, not quite the ovation he received in Salt Lake. Like he did in Salt Lake, he traveled the first time he touched the ball, but this time, he didn’t wait until the fourth quarter to score his first field goal as he made a layup in the first minute of the second quarter.
Later in the quarter he made a couple of nice baskets, a dipsy-doodle around Thabo Sefolosha and a left-handed shot inside against Rudy Gobert of all people. However, he still came up empty on his 3-point shooting, finishing 0 for 4 from long range on the night.
Suns’ coach Igor Kokoskov has been happy with Fredette in his brief time in Phoenix, even if his numbers haven’t been stellar.
“He’s an extremely talented guy, a great guy," he said. "We need to find pieces that are complementing him on the court so that we have enough size. Obviously his strength is offense. He’s doing a great job, he’s excited, very pleased to be able to be back on the big stage and play in the NBA. He’s a first-class guy and a true professional."
HIGH PRAISE FOR JAZZ: Kokoskov may be biased, having been an assistant coach for Utah for four years under Quin Snyder, but he believes the Jazz can make a run in the upcoming playoffs.
“This team is built to go all the way to the end of May, maybe June,” he said. “It reminds me a lot of different aspects of the 2004 Detroit Pistons. If they stay healthy, all these teams in the West, I’m not saying they fear the Utah Jazz, but they don’t want to play them. They can match up with Golden State, with Houston, with Denver, all these teams. Not just because I have friends over there, but I strongly believe they have a chance to go all the way to the end of May and, like I said, they built this team to win today.”