It was Nov. 4, still early in the 2022-23 season, when Fournier’s NBA career started to turn for the worse.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau finally did what he was planning to do—replace Fournier with Quentin Grimes in the starting lineup that was only delayed by Grimes’ foot injury that kept him out of the training camp and the beginning of the season.
“When he took me out of the [starting] five, he just told me he was going to try something else,” Fournier said in a candid interview with Yann Ohnona from L’Equipe.
The Knicks barely beat the starless Sixers, 106-104, on Fournier’s first game coming off the bench.
Fives games later — with the Knicks splitting the previous six games Fournier came off the bench — the French guard’s dream run with the Knicks turned into his worst nightmare.
“Then, at the first match of a road trip, he announced to me that I was leaving the rotation, and ciao,” Fournier told L’Equipe.
The short conversation was as cold as the winter season.
Non-Existent Relationship with Tom Thibodeau
“I have nothing to say because I have none,” Fournier said about his relationship with Thibodeau.
His first reaction to the demotion?
“You want to spit on everyone. You have hatred. Derrick Rose and I looked at each other and said to each other: ‘What the hell are we doing here?’ During the five-on-five practice, we were on the side like some prospects—uncool times. And when I realized that wouldn’t change, I took things more slowly,” Fournier told L’Equipe.
“I focused on myself and didn’t let the rest get to me anymore. I did three cardio sessions, two weight training sessions per week, a lot of travel work, [analyzing] game situations with an assistant coach Daniel Brady,” he added.
The Knicks won their first two games with Fournier out of the rotation. They finished that grueling five-game West Coast trip 3-2, which foreshadowed an eight-game winning streak in December that turned their season around.
As Fournier sank deeper into the Knicks bench, the team continued to rise and eventually won their first playoff series in a decade.
Knicks Struggling to Trade Evan Fournier
Fournier has already accepted his fate and just waiting for an opportunity to revive his career away from New York, his dream city beside his hometown Paris.
“I would be very surprised to be a Knick next year. They pay me 18 million. They have no interest in keeping me,” he said.
But the Knicks are finding it difficult to unload Fournier’s salary. He was offered to Utah at February’s trade deadline for role players Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, but the Jazz rejected them and proceeded to deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. A three-team trade that would have landed him Indiana and the Knicks receiving Cam Payne from Phoenix in return this offseason did not materialize. Instead, the Suns traded Payne into the San Antonio Spurs’ salary cap.
The Knicks’ options are getting slimmer by the day.
“If you want to trade me with a good return, why didn’t you use me? I was coming out of a season where I was the fourth-best 3-point shooter in the league. Why not take advantage of it?” Fournier told L’Equipe. “Now they won’t get anything interesting and that’s normal because I couldn’t show anything [on the court].”
Despite getting a cold treatment throughout his last season ordeal in New York, Fournier is still hoping the Knicks would do him good.
“I would be shot [if I stay]. I’m going to be traded, it’s not possible otherwise. Or I’d be stuck, and so would they. They have several players with big contracts coming in. Unless they want to pay a crazy luxury tax… If I stayed, it would be a disaster basketball-wise for my career,” Fournier told L’Equipe. “I can manage a year without playing. Two… that would be terrible.”