The Pelicans, in need of healthy bodies, are turning to a familiar face.
Assuming the NBA approves New Orleans’ request for a hardship exception to add a 16th roster player, the 0-6 Pelicans will sign Jimmer Fredette, a source told The Advocate on Monday. Fredette, a 26-year-old guard, played 50 games for the Pelicans last season.
“First of all, we have to get the medical exception,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said after Monday’s practice. “If we get the medical exception, he’s a guy that’s high on our list, but we’re also talking to other guys, too.”
Fredette could not be reached for comment, but he was flying to New Orleans on Monday afternoon, a source close to the former BYU star said.
The NBA permits teams to sign players above the 15-man roster limit in rare cases when a club has at least four players who have missed at least three consecutive games because of injury or illness and will continue to be unable to play at the time the replacement player is signed.
An independent physician, not a team’s doctors, must determine the length of the players’ anticipated absences. The Pelicans expect a ruling on the exception by Tuesday.
The Pelicans’ roster has been decimated early this season by injuries. Potential starters Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter and backup point guard Norris Cole have yet to play.
Evans had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 20, and the timetable for his return at the time was six to eight weeks. Pondexter had offseason knee surgery, and the Pelicans have not announced a date for his return. Pondexter posted on Twitter last weekend that he’ll be back “sometime in 2015.” Cole is out indefinitely.
Backup center Kendrick Perkins told The Advocate last week he expects to miss three months with a torn pectoral muscle.
Starting center Omer Asik has played 10 minutes in one game and is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Smoothie King Center. Even if Asik is cleared to return to action, the Pelicans still could qualify for the hardship exception.
The move to apply for a hardship exception means the Pelicans anticipate their injured players missing “10 days, at least,” Gentry said. When one player returns to game action, the Pelicans would be required to reduce their roster to 15 players unless a subsequent injury leads to application for another hardship exception.
Though he has struggled defensively in his pro career, Fredette in theory would give the Pelicans an additional outside shooting threat. The 6-foot-2 guard is a career 38.2 percent shooter from 3-point range, but he made just 18.8 percent from long range in 50 games with the Pelicans last season, averaging 3.6 points and 1.2 assists per game.
Fredette was named The Associated Press Player of the Year as a BYU senior in 2011, and the Sacramento Kings selected him with the 10th pick in the 2011 NBA draft. He was traded to the Chicago Bulls during the 2013-14 season and signed with the Pelicans as a free agent last summer.
Fredette played two games with the San Antonio Spurs this preseason, averaging two points in 13.2 minutes per game and shooting 2-for-10, including 0-for-3 from 3-point range.
On Oct. 31, the Westchester Knicks made Fredette the No. 2 pick in the NBA Development League draft. The New York Knicks, who own the Westchester club, are carrying 14 players, and Fredette hoped to impress in the D-League and work his way onto the Knicks, the team he rooted for growing up.
“Sometimes it’s about finding the right situation at the right time in this league,” Fredette said on a conference call last week. “I haven’t been able to find a spot where I’ve had a long-term contract. That happens to lots of guys.”