SALT LAKE CITY — He smiled once, the old type of confident grin he used to show when he owned Provo.
He doesn't own this area anymore. Not even sure he can rent those wonderful days here, though he would deserve it.
Now, Jimmer Fredette is a decent but still overmatched player, in a brutal NBA situation.
The Sacramento Kings are about as invested in each other as they are in...well, probably Sacramento. Bench players drift off, away from the huddle. A bunch of islands out there. If the promised land was reaching the NBA, Fredette appears to have found the prison of being around not many great teammates. It seemed a miracle, amid a lethargic Jazz night, for the road team to force overtime before buckling.
The blessing of Monday night for the visitors was their best player, the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins, finished off a 4-for-4 showing by getting ejected during a halftime confrontation with an official. The team loosened up and looked more like a team after that hot-headed moment, which is no stranger to Cousins.
Fredette doesn't look so joyous to be surrounded by any of that. Ah, to long for the days of Jackson Emery and Charles Abouo and not being 17-33.
And you have to wonder: Is Keith Smart, the head coach, some sort of genius? Or just insane? They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and getting the same unwanted results.
Well, he's not playing Fredette that much. He averages about 14 and played 13 in his return trip. Couldn't a team that has trouble scoring use what Fredette is known to do so well?
Problem is, the fans that wailed for Sacramento to "Free Jimmer" — the popular term these days, especially on Twitter by preceding it with a hashtag — must not have watched the second quarter.
Fredette came in and wasn't very good at all.
He was no better in the fourth quarter. Maybe it's still hard to return home, and that's where the discomfort rested. But his mistakes looked like they could take place Anywhere NBA.
His presence started with a smile. The Kings were in good shape at the end of the first quarter. Fredette rarely plays early, and Smart at the last second during the brief break chose to make the change.
Fredette ripped off his purple warm-up top and strolled to the scorer's table, passing a few fans that offered well wishes.
He smiled big, as if he happened to be back at the Marriott Center. The cheers rained down at surprisingly vacant EnergySolutions Arena.
The results said he was in a faraway land.
He missed all five shots, including three 3-pointers, and committed three turnovers that gave a clue as to why Smart isn't so keen on throwing him at to the Timberwolves, or even the Jazz. His only two points came on free throws.
His first shot, Sacramento's second possession of the quarter, was a missed 3-pointer. No problem, just gotta get in the flow.
He earned a nice steal and some of the crowd was actually looking forward to the visitors getting two points.
But just as Jimmer's visit here complicates fandom, Fredette with the ball in his hands is too often also a convoluted occurrence.
He missed one shot, getting knocked to the ground (Fredette wanted the foul, and deserved the call) but at least a teammate scored off the rebound.
Then it got ugly. A couple of bad passes turned into more fans cheering for the home team.
Alec Burks, a young Jazz guard, is startlingly taller and broader than Fredette, who at about 6-foot-3 didn't look at all outsized on the NBA court.
Sure, Kings teammate Isaiah Thomas is even shorter. But Thomas carries a swagger and foot speed Fredette's not in the neighborhood of replicating.
At least the local boy had support in the arena, though the hysteria has calmed down noticeably from past appearances.
His old college coach, Dave Rose, brought family and wore a purple dress shirt underneath his sports coat to support his old college star. Fredette was the consensus national player of the year in 2011 and became the No. 10 pick in the NBA draft. Casual college basketball fans that hear of BYU still talk of Jimmer, and for good reason.
Many NBA experts agree Fredette is a much better player than a year ago.
But it's still not enough right now, even on the lowly Kings.
"You see from last year to this year, this young man has improved a great deal," Smart insists. "His time is going to come. He's going to be a nice, productive pro...he's progressing at a great rate."
Fredette is better, Smart said, at getting closer to his man on defense. He is still getting used to the way defenses collapse on his shots off pick-and-roll offense.
Sadly, teammates don't look interested in getting him the ball. He looks uncertain of how to use them, as well.
Thomas was the very last pick that year, 50 selections after Fredette, and plays with the joy and underdog chip Fredette used to possess.
Who knows how much it's weighing on Fredette that another former local star, Damian Lillard of Weber State, didn't create the same national college-days celebrity but is on his way to rookie of the year.
"Obviously, Damian's been playing really well right away (in Portland), getting a lot of minutes and shooting the ball well, leading that team and doing a great job of it. And, myself (I'm) trying to find more minutes. That happens. You can't get frustrated. You've got to stay the course, continue to progress and I know I'll have my time," Fredette said.
His time basically was up, on this night, with eight minutes left.
Fredette drove to rim, just like the good old days. Some BYU fans cheered, even as they were also Jazz fans. A few seemed to pity that he was not having a nice homecoming.
Fredette found traffic on his final drive to the hoop. He used to convert with spectacular ease, even against long, athletic talent. Remember the shots he used to pull off against San Diego State? And those dudes weren't slouches.
Those days are far away, at least now.
Fredette was stripped. He scowled. He clapped his hands and raced to the other end of the floor. The Jazz put up two points off the mistake.
Fredette was back to the bench, only one "five" offered in support of his performance.
He re-entered with about 30 seconds left in regulation, a tie game in play. But the crowd didn't really react.
It was obvious Fredette wasn't going to see the ball. And a teammate's shot missed wildly, forcing overtime.
Fredette is still living the dream, playing ball, getting paid and being a hero.
But you still had to feel for him, having to watch an extra five minutes of the Kings.