You can now scratch the New York Knicks off from the unwanted destination list among NBA players.
Evan Fournier just made the confirmation during an elaborate team introduction Tuesday at The Garden along with Bronx native Kemba Walker.
Fournier arrived at New York via a sign-and-trade deal that netted the Knicks additional draft assets instead of signing straight as a free agent. The deal is reportedly worth $78 million for four years, with the last year a club option.
The Boston Celtics created a large $17.1 million traded player exception. They incentivized the Knicks with two future second-round picks — the top-55 protected 2023 Charlotte’s second-round pick, the worst of Oklahoma/Washington, or the better of Miami/ Dallas, per Boston Globe — to add to their burgeoning draft capital.
The Knicks, along with the Celtics and other teams, were Fournier’s options. But he didn’t need to think twice when the Knicks came with an offer to the table.
â€œWhy? I think it was an easy choice. The Knicks are a very attractive team. They have an incredible coach that every time he coached a team, the team is disciplined. They play hard. And they play together. As a player, you want that,” Fournier said.
The French swingman was in the middle of his country’s Olympic quest when free agency opened. That’s why he was anxious to hammer out a deal as quickly as possible.
“The day we agreed on the deal was the day of the quarterfinals. So I was really talking to my agent, and you know, he’s letting me know what’s basically on the table and what my options are. It was pretty clear to me that New York was gonna be the team for me. It made it easier because I didn’t have to spend much energy so I could just focus on the Olympics,” Fournier said.
He sealed the deal over the phone with the Knicks’ top brass, including coach Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau greeted Fournier with a hex over him and his team France.
“As soon as I wrapped up that silver [medal], I have to go to New York so we can talk,” Fournier recalled of their conversation.
As it turned out, Fournier and France settled for the silver medal, losing to the Team USA in the gold medal game. It was Fournier’s first Olympic medal for France, and he relished the experience, saying that playing in high-intensity games makes you better as a player. He added that there’s no better high-intensity game than in a gold medal match against the world’s best basketball players.
Now, Fournier can focus on helping the Knicks improve from their fourth seed and first-round exit last season.
Fournier had admired the Knicks’ playing style under Thibodeau from a distance last season.
“Teams like that are hard to beat because they don’t beat themselves. You really have to play well to beat them. Looking at a team like that, it’s clear that they have togetherness. They practice well. Because throughout the season, they keep getting better and better. As a player, that’s exciting because you want to be part of a group that works and wants to win,” Fournier said.
Fournier believes it will be an easy transition for him to play for Thibodeau as he enjoyed his best years under Steve Clifford, a former Knicks assistant and Thibodeau’s close friend, in Orlando. He prides himself on being a grinder and a hard worker, a trait that made him among the favorite players Clifford has coached.
“I played for coach [Steve] Clifford for three years, and I think, in a lot of ways, they were very similar. I know I will enjoy working with [Thibodeau]. And I mean, it’s New York, it’s the Madison Square Garden. The team is getting better and better. It’s a great opportunity. You probably don’t know that, but the French press knows I’ve been telling them for years that I always wanted to play for the Knicks. Now, it became a reality,” he said.
A dream come true for Fournier and the Knicks, who have long desired to be wanted.
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