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Prison Break at Sleep Train Arena

“A Tale of Two Seasons”

The Los Angeles Clippers had a comfortable eight-game lead in the Pacific Division when they arrived at Sleep Train Arena to play the Kings on Tuesday night. On the other hand, they were fighting to maintain the No. 3 seeding in the Western Conference. The Clippers lost that fight, lost the game, and dropped down to fourth.

It has been a “Tale of Two Seasons” for the Clippers. On January 19, they were 32 – 9 and riding high atop the NBA. Since then, they are just 14 – 13.

A source of pride and strength for the Clippers has been their bench. Anchored by Jamal Crawford, who is battling J.R. Smith for the Sixth Man of the Year, the Clipper bench usually outscores (they rank fourth), outrebounds (they rank third) and outassists (maybe, that’s not a word, but parallel structure is so elegant and, by the way, they rank fourth) other benches. But, other benches don’t have Marcus Thornton, Toney Douglas, Patrick Patterson, and Cole Aldrich.

With Thornton matching Crawford’s 25 points, and the Kings’ three new acquisitions (Patterson, Douglas, and Aldrich) continuing to surprise and delight local fans, the Kings bench outscored, outrebounded, and matched the assist total of the Clippers’ bench.

Through three quarters, the game was tight. Nevertheless, the Kings seemed to lose their focus in the third quarter and, less than one minute into the final stanza, the Clippers held their largest lead of the night (eight points).

Then, everything began to click for the Kings, as they outscored their opponents 38 – 15 and cruised to a 116 – 101 win.

Speaking of “Two Seasons,” the Kings are now 5 – 5 since Patterson, Douglas, and Aldrich arrived, and are playing the best basketball of the campaign.

Prison Break

Sleep Train Arena frequently contains pockets of spectators in uniforms. Sets of soldiers, students, and similar groups sometimes attend. Still, it is not often one spots a group of men in orange, prison jumpsuits.

Sacramento Press reporters are intrepid, however. We defy the potential danger of felony perpetrators. We investigate.

It turns out that four men drove up from Los Angeles specifically to cheer on their favorite player: Jimmer Fredette. “Free Jimmer!” was their mantra. “Play him or trade him” was their demand.

Mike Cannell, Todd and Chad Thompson, and Chris Bagley have all been fans of Fredette since the days when he mesmerized the nation at BYU.

Bagley described the reason behind their trip to Sacramento. “We came up to give Coach Smart a message: It’s not SMART to sit Jimmer!”

Todd Thompson questions, “Why draft at No. 10 and then not play the guy? This guy is one of the best guards in the league, and he’s getting no love at all. For the first two months of the year, he was one of the top ten in points-per-minute in the league and couldn’t get into the game? You’ve got to be kidding me! I’ve been a Jimmer fan since the first time I saw him play in his freshman year. This guy is the real thing! Jimmer’s a class act. I’m here to defend Jimmer.”

Chad Thompson, Todd’s brother, feels Jimmer is being mistreated by Coach Smart. “There’s no rhyme or reason to sit him.”

Mike Cannell insists that a more accomplished coach like Gregg Popovich (Spurs) or Rick Carlisle (Mavericks) would run an offense tailored to Jimmer and play him.

These men are not Kings fans, mind you. Todd Thompson, for example, declares himself “a Clipper fan through and through.” But when presented with the scenario of Jimmer taking a last second three-point shot to win the game for the Kings, every one of these Southern California pilgrims unhesitatingly hoped he would make it and defeat their own Clippers.

It was Chad Thompson who conceived of driving north for this game, and his three companions immediately embraced his plan.

Other fans wearing Jimmer jerseys were asked to comment.

Veasna, from Stockton, feels Jimmer should “definitely” get increased court time. “Play him more. Give him a chance. When [Coach Smart] puts him in, most of the time he comes through.” She especially likes that he’s “just an average guy. He’s very humble. He doesn’t show off. He could play! Just put him in!”

Kelsea lives in Sacramento and has been a Jimmer fan for “a couple of years.” She feels Jimmer is “doing a good job out there and, maybe, give him an opportunity to play more games.”

Aaron resides in Sacramento and has been a Jimmer fan since his senior year at BYU. Aaron would have remained a fan of Jimmer and his “impeccable shot” had another team drafted him, but the fact that he plays in Sacramento “makes it even better.” Aaron would like Coach Smart to “give him a little more time to get some screens set. He’s one of those natural shooters. He comes off a screen, it’s good to go almost every time.” Aaron also had some advice for Jimmer: “He needs to work on his dribble a little bit more.”

Brandon Stauffer was living in Montana when he was first affected by Jimmermania. Stauffer was attending a BYU campus in Idaho and watched Jimmer play in his junior year. “He was just amazing — lights out! I was ecstatic when he got picked by the Sacramento Kings. We’ve all seen how well he did in college and, yeah, it’s different in the NBA, but I think that if he’s given more time and has a team that’s willing to give him the ball and give him those open three’s, I think we’ll be able to see the Jimmer that we saw in college ball.”

This was an unfortunate game for the men in orange to deliver their message. While Jimmer had a decent five-minute stint in the second quarter, it was Toney Douglas, Jimmer’s rival for back-up point guard, who played a key role in enabling the Kings to defeat the division leaders.

Douglas sank five of six shots and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter alone. Additionally, his defense was largely responsible for keeping Chris Paul, arguably the best point guard in the NBA, from converting a single field goal. Paul had 15 assists for the game, but only two in that final quarter.

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