Jimmer Fredette mostly improves, the NBA is no place for Royce White and Avery Bradley is not a messiah

Ezra Shaw

Monday's Hook brokers a deal with the Most Improved Player award, tries to deconstruct the latest in Royce White and asserts that lovely as he may be, Avery Bradley is not going to save the Celtics.

I gave up on the Most Improved Player award long ago. I think it was right around when 28 media voters left Kevin Martin off their ballot in 2006-07 even though he was one of exactly two reasonable candidates. It's an award that almost always goes to a player whose minutes get doubled. Whoa, his per-game numbers went up too? Amazing! Let's give him an award! For the past couple of years I've refused to acknowledge it.

But the MIP can win me back. It just needs to go to Jimmer Fredette.

That assumes that Jimmer continues to do what he's doing, which is using his short on-court stints to score like a maniac. Jimmer doesn't even resemble the confused, overwhelmed rookie we saw in Sacramento a year ago. Last season, Fredette was an infrequent scorer, a poor shooter, an iffy passer and an overmatched defender. This season, he's a really frequent scorer, a dope shooter, a decent passer and ... well, an overmatched defender.

The calling card to Jimmer's improvement is this: Thanks to improved shooting and more aggression, his points per 36 minutes has risen from 14 to 22. Right now, he sits behind a (mostly) elite list of scorers in scoring frequency: 'Melo, Kobe, KD, LeBron, Harden, Kyrie, Brook Lopez, Chris Copeland (I said mostly) and D-Wade. He went from a guy Keith Smart basically couldn't play in winnable games to a per-minute scorer on that list. What's more, only Durant, LeBron, Harden and, uh, Copeland have higher True Shooting percentages.

So I'll make this deal with the Most Improved Player award: If Jimmer gets serious consideration, I will stop saying mean things about the trophy and I will properly recognize the winner. Deal?

***

It's becoming more and more clear that the NBA is no place for Royce White.

Here's the latest in the saga, in case you missed it: The Rockets assigned White to the D-League so that he wouldn't have to fly for road games. White refused. Scratch that: White refused via open letter miraculously published on NBA.com. In it, he invoked the Newtown tragedy to remind us how mishandled mental health has been in this country, and basically accused the Rockets' assigned doctors of being driven by business decisions instead of health concerns.

This is where I think White is missing the point on purpose. The Rockets want Royce White to play basketball. Royce White wants to play basketball. But he wants to play only on his terms. As it turns out, playing on his terms appears to be an increasingly difficult target. It doesn't appear that the Rockets can meet that target. C'est la vie. The dream's over. White is not going to stick in the NBA.

At some point soon, the Rockets will have had enough and will waive him. (They'd only be out $3.3 million as first-round contracts only include two guaranteed years.) Rockets fans are already there. It seems obvious that when and if the Rockets waive him, White will raise hell about being fired for mental health and he'll continue down his path to martyrdom. But he'll be doing so outside of the NBA, making far less money than he could if he'd try to work with the Rockets instead of against them.

I understand that White feels like the Rockets aren't quite as invested in White's future as he is. Because they aren't. But neither is anyone else. And no one else ever will be, either. It's all about using the folks who do care into creating a positive, uplifting environment around you. Just as no pill can cure anxiety, no situation can make life perfect. But White needs to realize that everyone is trying. He wants things to be perfect. It's not going to happen. It never happens.

I do wonder what White's version of perfect would be. He only plays in home games? He gets to travel in the bus the Rockets made available, and is guaranteed 25 minutes every night? Really, how far in the practical, logistical sense does White think the Rockets should go? Their doctors have already made their statements, ones White won't abide. What more does he want?

The worst thing about all of this is that while White wants to be a champion for those who suffer from anxiety disorder and mental illness, he is absolutely guaranteeing that the next hot basketball prospect with similar issues goes undrafted. Progress, right?

***

Celtics Nation awaits Avery Bradley's return on Wednesday. I like Avery Bradley as much as the next guy, but ... Boston just lost three games in California by a combined 69 points. They lost to the Kings by 22. Even worse, they let the Kings score 118. Avery Bradley's going to fix that?

You can never count out the Celtics, and believe it or not a sub-.500 record still gets you the No. 8 spot in the East. But unless Bradley comes back six inches taller and ready to play power forward behind Kevin Garnett, I'm not seeing him as the ultimate salve.

***

The Hook is an NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.

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