The Pelicans’ mounting injuries finally benefited them.
On Tuesday morning, the NBA granted New Orleans a hardship exemption, clearing the way to sign shooting guard Jimmer Fredette as the 16th man on the roster. Not only did Fredette join the team, he was active in Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks in the Smoothie King Center.
“It’s been crazy, the past two days or so,” Fredette said before the game. “I just need to go out there and play free. There’s nothing to lose. There’s only something to gain and if I can help the team out, then that’s what I’m trying to do.”
He is the third guard added to the Pelicans roster since the final preseason game, joining Ish Smith and Toney Douglas.
The hardship exemption is reserved for teams suffering prolonged injuries to at least four players. On its injury report entering Tuesday’s game, the Pelicans listed Tyreke Evans (knee), Norris Cole (ankle), Quincy Pondexter (knee) and Kendrick Perkins (pectoral) as unable to play.
An independent physician evaluated the injuries this week to make sure their severity met the NBA’s guidelines to receive the exception.
When one of the injured Pelicans returns to the court, the roster limit pulls back to 15, and will force general manager Dell Demps to waive someone. Demps can also apply for a second hardship roster exception if an additional injury emerges in the meantime.
Fredette, who scored two points Tuesday, played in 50 games for the Pelicans last season, struggling to make an impact on either end of the floor. Despite being signed for his reputation as a sharpshooter from 3-point territory (converting 40 percent of his 3-point attempts in his first three seasons), Fredette connected on just 18.8 percent of his 48 3-point attempts with the Pelicans.
However, joining these Pelicans, under the direction of Alvin Gentry, is a drastic change from last year since they’ve exchanged a series of designed plays for a more free-flowing offense.
“I like to get out in transition and shoot 3-pointers and space the floor,” Fredette said. “I want to make the extra pass and get people set up to score. I think this system fits what I do really well.”
He averaged 3.6 points in 10.2 minutes per game last season, proving to be most valuable at the free throw line. Former coach Monty Williams often utilized Fredette at the end of games to convert at the stripe, where he made 43-of-45 free throws (generating nearly a quarter of his overall scoring output there).
“It’s comforting to be back here,” Fredette said. “It’s a lot of little things like knowing how to get everywhere in the city and knowing people behind the scenes, but it’s also big things, like knowing how most of the guys play.”
Gentry said he believes that comfort will be useful in improving New Orleans’ 3-point percentage, attributing the Pelicans’ slow start from the perimeter to missed shots rather than bad looks. New Orleans has generated the third-most wide open 3-point attempts yet ranks 16th in 3-point percentage, according to NBA.com.
“I think we are getting good shots, we just have to step up and knock them down,” Gentry said. “If you go back and look at the shots we have taken, we like those particular shots, we just have to get our share in the basket. We have had great looks in the corner, and corner 3s are very important and we are 30th in the league in shooting out of the corner.
“We have to be better than that. We will create those shots and they’ll be available, we have to be able to knock them down at a rate that is at least acceptable.”
Coming out of BYU, Fredette made 3-pointers from just about everywhere across the half-court line.
The consensus All-American was selected as the Associated Press Player of the Year in 2011, before the Sacramento Kings selected No. 10 in the draft. He played his first two seasons in Sacramento, before a midseason trade to Chicago in 2013-14 and ending up in New Orleans last summer.
Fredette was the No. 2 pick in this year’s D-League draft, selected by the New York Knicks’ owned Westchester Knicks. If he’s eventually waived by the Pelicans, Fredette would return to Westchester if not signed by another NBA team.
But, the Pelicans will give him an opportunity to make the roster. It all comes down to hitting shots.
“We have not shot the ball well at all from the perimeter and he’s a perimeter shooter,” Gentry said. “That was his reputation in college and I don’t know if he’s really had an opportunity to do that during his NBA career. We are going to put him in the situation that he’s pretty much going to have the green light if he’s open.”