Evan Fournier could have sidestepped the question, but instead he decided to give an honest answer.
This season has been one to forget for the 11-year veteran, as Fournier was removed from Tom Thibodeau’s regular rotation in November, and his playtime against the 76ers on Sunday was due to R.J. Barrett missing the game with a non-COVID illness. And to listen to Fournier after the game, he does not expect to see more minutes even after helping the Knicks record one of their best wins of the season.
“I think he’s set on his nine-man rotation,” Fournier said after his 17-point performance in the Knicks’ 108-97 win over the 76ers on Sunday night at the Garden. “ We’ll see. Throughout the course of the season sometimes guys have injuries, sometimes they get sick. I’m sure I’ll get another chance to play, but I don’t think he’s going to change anything.”
The 30-year-old Fournier is averaging 7.1 points in 18.7 minutes per game this season. He has played in 22 of the Knicks’ 55 games so far, including starting the first seven games of the season. The Knicks are 12-10 in games Fournier plays.
“I love Evan’s demeanor,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got a great attitude. Great approach. Very professional. I see the work that he puts in each day. Each day he’s ready and when he’s called upon, he plays well. I think he and Derrick [Rose] really handled not being in the rotation as well as you would hope. I think that’s an important part of being a team. We have a lot of guys who are sacrificing. Everyone has to put the team first. I don’t want to overlook the contributions that guys like Svi and [Ryan Arcidiacono have made]. They’re great team guys. When you have that, that’s really how you build a culture. So that’s important.”
Fournier’s performance, specifically, and the effort from the bench, collectively, was key to Sunday’s win. The foursome of Fournier, Isaiah Hartenstein (two points, 14 rebounds, one blocked shot), Miles McBride (14 points), and Obi Toppin (four points and four rebounds) helped the Knicks (29-26) rally from a 21-point first-quarter deficit and win, one night after a losing in overtime to the Clippers despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback.
“Our bench was great the whole game,” said Julius Randle, who scored 24 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had seven assists. “Guys like Isaiah, Deuce, Evan, they made big plays down the stretch. [Whenever the 76ers] got the ball out of Jalen’s hands or [whenever they] got the ball out of my hands, whatever it was, they made themselves available. And they made great plays, great shots and competed on the defensive end. It was a total team effort tonight.”