After the Knicks front office made Grimes untouchable, speculations swirled that the second-year wing is penciled to join the starting lineup to add defensive teeth and shooting to the Knicks backcourt alongside the undersized but prized free agent pickup Jalen Brunson.
However, New York coach Tom Thibodeau will not hand it to him on a silver platter. Grimes has his work cut out after Thibodeau declared veteran Evan Fournier as the frontrunner to start at the shooting guard spot as the training camp officially opened on Tuesday.
“The thing is we need shooting. The one thing that I know is with Jalen, RJ and Julius, we need to put shooting around them. Mitch (Mitchell Robinson) will give us pressure around the rim. So that’s what will force the defense to collapse. Evan is a proven [shooter]. I thought in the second half of last year he played really well. I think we have good depth at that position. So let’s see how everything unfolds.Tom Thibodeau via SNY
After a roller-coaster start to his Knicks tenure, Fournier found consistency in the second half of the season. Embracing his role as more of a spot-up shooter than a playmaker he used to be in Orlando, Fournier broke John Starks’ 27-year record with the most three-pointers in a single season.
Fournier sank a career-high 241 three-pointers last season, averaging three hits from behind the arc per game. But his defensive struggles overshadowed his outstanding marksmanship. It became more glaring as part of one of the worst starting lineups in the league last season.
After surviving offseason trade rumors (he was reportedly part of the Knicks’ final offer for Mitchell), Fournier is confident he’ll fare better in his second season with the Knicks.
“First of all, knowing what to expect is going to help me a lot. Last year, it took me a moment to really understand my role. I started the year very poorly defensively because I let my offense really impact my defense. I thought toward the end the season, it was much better on both sides of the court and I think it’s going to really help me just knowing the guys. I’m going to be myself. I’m going to compete as hard as I can. I’m going to be a good teammate.”Evan Fournier via SNY
Fournier, 29, comes into the training camp sharp after leading France to a silver medal finish in the Eurobasket.
Meanwhile, Grimes gained more confidence in leading the Knicks to the NBA Summer League Finals. The 22-year-old Grimes showed he’s more than capable of just being a 3-and-D player as he averaged a team-high 22.6 points and 3.4 3s per game on 41.4 percent overall shooting. He laced it up with 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 4.2 assists against 3.2 turnovers. He also yielded the highest net rating among the Knicks Summer League players with plus-10.
But for Thibodeau, though, it was not yet enough to leap over Fournier in the pecking order.
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