New York Knicks free agent acquisition Evan Fournier wasnâ€™t around for the 2020-21 season, so he didnâ€™t know what to expect entering the team this off-season in preparation for elevated expectations.
Last year, the Knicks completely surprised the NBA and its fans, winning the 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference, which was considered a longshot at the beginning of the season. Despite having deficiencies at multiple places, including point guard and center after Mitchell Robinson went down with a fractured foot and hand, the team fought hard and played some of the best defense in the entire league.
They ranked among the top in defensive efficiency and points allowed per game, which is a staple of a Tom Thibodeau lead team. However, replicating that will be difficult, especially as they allowed Reggie Bullock to depart in free agency, despite Thibodeau wanting to retain him.
Fournier, though, offers a more refined skill set as a scorer but doesnâ€™t offer the versatile defense bullock contributed last year. However, he is preparing to join a team that is deadly focused on the goal ahead — to go even further in a post season.
â€œIâ€™m not sure what it was like last year on a daily basis, but the young guys are hungry, the veterans are hungry, the coaching staff is hungry,â€ veteran wing Evan Fournier said. â€œYou can definitely feel that work atmosphere.â€
The former Boston Celtic detailed how the team’s style is exactly what he expected, given Tomâ€™s mentality and communication.
â€œExactly what I expected,â€ Fournier said. â€œA coach thatâ€™s about working, a coach thatâ€™s very intense, that tells you things how they are, keeps it real, and just wants to get better. I think heâ€™s very good at making sure you understand what he wants from you. Itâ€™s very clear. Thereâ€™s no gray area and thereâ€™s no place for misinterpretation. As a player, especially a new guy, itâ€™s easy because you know what to do.â€
After signing a four-year, $73 million deal, the Knicks are expecting Fournier to contribute heavily on offense, averaging 17.1 points last year, including 3.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and shooting 41.3% from three-point range. He is far and away a better threat as a shooter and play creator compared to Bullock, so he does offer more value in some categories. Thibodeau loves a stingy defense, though, so he will expect the French sharpshooter to focus on that portion of his game as well.