With a minute and 49 seconds left in a game the Knicks were losing by 24, whatever was left of the sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden let out a gleeful roar. The long-sleeve T-shirt had come off to reveal the No. 32.
They wanted Jimmer.
They got Jimmer.
Though coach Kurt Rambis had no plans to play Jimmer Fredette on Monday night against the Raptors, the former college star, the man responsible for Jimmermania, made it onto the court. Seconds later, he hit a three-pointer from the top of the key, sending the crowd into a fervor generally unseen in a blowout loss.
“My teammates were looking for me and I was able to get a clean one off,” the Glens Falls native said. “It felt good . . . Get the first shot out of the way and more to come.”
It’ll take work. Despite the fast start, Fredette didn’t fare all that well in his short stint. He fouled James Johnson, leading to a three-point play, was out of place on defense and committed a turnover.
Rambis, who said Fredette’s 10-day contract was “a management decision,” seems reluctant to use the point guard, noting before the game that “he has to be keyed into where everyone is supposed to be, and I’m not sure he’s there yet.”
But it didn’t matter Monday night — a night when the Knicks lost, 122-95, and were thoroughly victimized by the Raptors’ backcourt. The chants of “We want Jimmer” were faint in the first quarter but grew to a reverberating crescendo midway through the third, when the Knicks were down by 17.
“Hopefully the next game will be better,” Fredette said. “I’m looking for the niche to show them I can help and that I’ll keep working as hard as I possibly can.”
Fredette started 30 games for the Westchester Knicks this season, averaged 21.8 points (fifth in the league) and won the All-Star MVP. But his success — both in the D-League and at Brigham Young, where he averaged 28.9 points his senior year — have failed to translate to the league’s highest level. In 233 games, he shot 41 percent and averaged six points.
He seemed to suffer from a basketball version of an identity crisis — a shooting guard disguised as a point guard, albeit one who struggled to create his own shot. Defense also was a liability. Fredette did well handling the triangle with the Westchester Knicks, but Rambis noted that the D-League team runs a more simplified version of the offense.
“He’s going to have to outplay somebody,” Rambis said. “I’m not going to displace somebody that’s been here all year and has been working hard . . . It’s really hard to just throw somebody in like that, but we’ll see.”
Before the game, Fredette seemed momentarily unnerved under the bright lights of the television cameras. He knows his chances to break through will be limited no matter how much fans root for him. “It’s not going to be here forever, so you try to cherish it as much as you can,” he said. “I’m appreciative of everything that has happened up to this point. You have to live it day by day and enjoy it.”