He’s a high usage reliable scorer who has spent the past three seasons in a league wildly different from anything he’ll experience in Europe. Jimmer Fredette is about to make things weird, writes Emmet Ryan
Nick Calathes is the ball-handler. The world of Panathinaikos runs through him. That’s the first thing Jimmer Fredette is going to learn in Athens and it is far from the last.
You can guarantee he’ll post a goofy pic from the Acropolis, dude is 30 and has a family this is the one utter certainty about Jimmermania. Beyond that, there’s going to be a whole lot of adjustments.
On the upside, the former BYU Cougar who inspired one of the most awful cover songs in history is more than used to the challenges with traffic. Athens isn’t the easiest place for a driver but after a few years in Shanghai he’ll be more than up to the task. Being thrown into a wholly new local culture will also be fine for him, he’s used to dining differently to home and Athens is just fantastic for food especially of the dirty late night variety. Jimmer needs him some souvlaki.
Then there’s the smoking. Technically the smoking ban in Greece is close enough to the one here in Ireland but practically it’s anything but. In Ireland, if you smoke indoors, you’ll be shown the door really quickly. In a café bar in Greece they leave the ashtray down for you as soon as you step inside. That continues into the arenas where it hangs mixed with the smoke of flares. Dangerous as indoor use of flares may be, it’s an undeniably cool look.
It’s the style of the game that will be most different. While the pace isn’t as fast as the NBA, the straight up physicality is greater. Then there’s the usage. In the CBA with Shanghai Sharks he was the guy because he had to be the guy. Added to this is the increased focus on defence and efficiency. The CBA is not a league for the defensive purist as a viewer, albeit one where a player of that grade like Aaron Jackson can excel. Jimmer will just not be used to the way the game is played.
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With the exception of Keith Langford’s amazing season at Unics Kazan, you just don’t see 2s (yes he can play the 1 but bear with me) used the way Jimmer will have been used to from his time in the CBA or even the NBA for that matter. He’d be well advised to watch a heap of tape of Nando de Colo during his time at CSKA Moscow to see the way he can best adapt, including the parts where Nando is on the bench.
For the money he is getting, Fredette is making some big life changes too. The CBA’s short season, just 46 games in total before the playoffs and condensed into a much shorter timeframe, is a long way off what is ahead of him in Athens. The Greens of Panathinaikos will start playing competitive hoops no later than early October and it will be June before they are done. In that time, excluding the Greek Cup, Greek playoffs, and Euroleague playoffs, they’ll have 67 regular season games with 34 in Euroleague and 33 in the Greek League (although that could yet change due to assorted politics but not significantly).
The good news is, Panathinaikos are going to straight up murder most of their opponents in the Greek League so the bulk of those games won’t be tough. The bad is that won’t mean he won’t necessarily see a noticeable drop in how he is used in those games. The later finish also means he won’t have the option to get a NBA stint at the end of the season as he did last spring with the Phoenix Suns.
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What Jimmer will find easiest is knowing that he is in a situation where expectations are high and the odds are somewhat against his side. Panathinaikos has a playoff calibre side and, with his addition, a frankly mouth-watering back court pairing of him and Calathes. There are however many other sides in Euroleague that can boast similar and superior rosters. Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, Anadolu Efes, and Fenerbahce, all look in better order on paper on day one. There’s a good chance other teams could end up making life hairy too for the Greens.
None of this matters, anything short of a trip to the Final Four is seen as a disappointing season for PAO fans. They are six-time champions who are waiting for a return to the biggest weekend in the sport here since 2013. Jimmer is expected to get them there no matter the obstacles.
Fredette knew all about that in Shanghai. It rarely worked out, in his three seasons the Sharks failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs and squeezed in with the last spot in the last two. Still, it was a big name city and this was its team. The expectations were there and it wasn’t for the lack of output from Jimmer that the Sharks failed.
The best way to win the crowd, as Jimmer will quickly learn, is win against Olympiacos. Everything after that could make him a folk hero.
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