Jayson Tatum and USA Basketball were less than impressive in their first pre-Olympic exhibition game, falling to Nigeria in shocking fashion on Saturday. However, Tatum isn’t the only member of the Boston Celtics to have fallen short in a FIBA friendly recently. Evan Fournier has already done it twice.
On the same day that the Americans suffered a home-turf setback, Fournier and Team France were beaten by a vaunted Spanish side 87-79 in front of their own people at AccorHotels Arena in Paris. It was Les Bleus’ second loss in a matter of days to Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and their crew.
In the first game, Fournier scored a game-high 20 points but was just 2-of-9 from three-point range. On Saturday, the Celtics wing led the way again with 15, but missed 6-of-9 shots overall and was 1-of-5 from distance.
With 4:43 remaining in the latest contest, a Rudy Gobert bucket had given France a 68-66 lead. However, Rubio subsequently took over, scoring 17 of his 23 points to close out the game. Meanwhile, Fournier had faded into the background.
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Fournier & France Have Gold Medal Aspirations
Boasting a roster filled with familiar names, France joins the Americans as a team that is aiming for the top of the medal podium.
In addition to Gobert (of the Utah Jazz) and Fournier, LA Clippers forward Nicolas Batum, Brooklyn Nets wing Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and New York Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina are also on the team. So, too, are former Celtics big men Vincent Poirier and Guerschon Yabusele, as well as former EuroLeague MVP Nando de Colo, among others.
To be the best, though, Les Bleus are going to have to beat the best. So, consecutive losses to the 2019 FIBA World Cup winner in Spain is something of a gut punch. They’ll also tip-off Olympic play in Group A against Tatum and Team USA, which will be a tough win to get.
Nevertheless, France is a good bet to advance to the knockout stage. However, they’ve struggled in recent tournaments to make good on their incredible potential after making it there.
The team was ousted in the semifinals at consecutive World Cup tourneys, settling for bronze in both 2014 and 2019. And at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Fournier and France missed the podium entirely when Spain throttled them in the quarterfinals.
Fournier’s Impending Free Agency & Celtics Future
After France’s latest loss, Fournier took to Instagram with a post that included the caption, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.” One commenter considered Fournier’s words and immediately posited the following theory:
“Grass is green, green is Boston colors, Evan back to Boston confirmed.”
A slew of other commenters similarly took the opportunity to urge the nine-year NBA veteran to remain in Beantown. However, Fournier’s future with the Celtics is murky at best.
Fournier is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and his brush with COVID-19 made his time in Boston something of a mixed bag. Moreover, he’ll likely be looking for an annual salary in the neighborhood of the $17-plus million he brought in last season and the Celtics are cash-strapped.
On the plus side, the Celtics own his Bird rights, so they can exceed the cap to retain him. However, a deal on par with his previous contract would put Boston several million dollars over the luxury tax threshold. The Kemba Walker deal may have made re-signing Fournier easier, but it still won’t be a painless proposition.
On the other hand, letting him walk away for nothing could be worse.
In just 16 games with the Celtics, Fournier averaged 13.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per contest. He also connected on 46.3% of his three-point shots.
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