Evan Fournier talks Knicks, early adversity, Thibodeau’s jokes



Knicks’ offseason addition, free-agent swingman Evan Fournier takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Why do you like having the ball in your hands to take the last shot?

A: It’s what you dream of as a kid. Nobody dreams of being on the bench or sitting in the corner. That’s where you have all the adrenaline, your energy’s like pumping, you can feel it, and that’s where everything is instinctive (snaps finger), like you don’t think, you just do, because your back’s against the wall, you get to win, that’s where you get the best out of yourself.

Q: Did you ever lose your confidence early in your career?

A: Lost, no. … Yeah, you question yourself. When it’s your first time going through that, you definitely question yourself, you’re looking for answers. With experience, you learn how to navigate through that.

Q: And the best way to navigate through that?

A: Short-term memory loss. Like nothing happened, keep a cool head about it. Positive attitude … but not positive in a sense like, ‘OK, everything’s gonna be all right.’ No. Positive in the sense that visualize myself playing well, shooting the ball well, I’m gonna play well, stuff like that, not patting myself on the back.

Evan Fournier

Q: Are you into visualization?

A: I think it helps me with focus, kind of getting to that zone a little bit. I usually do it during the national anthem for sure … in the locker room, and before my nap.

Q: Do you visualize hitting game-winning shots?

A: Yeah for sure. … When you know you’re gonna have the opportunity to shoot the ball, because the coach draws up the play at the timeout, boom instantly you think about the play, you kind of like block away everything, and you think about the play and you kind of visualize yourself making the shot that you’re gonna take. The mind is very powerful, and so you start really believing that what you’re thinking is gonna happen, and it happens. So sometimes it’s almost like you will yourself to making that shot, you know what I’m saying?

Q: Tell me something about coach Tom Thibodeau I don’t know.

A: He’s actually funny. He’s really good at being serious, demand the best from us, and having a (in a deep voice) very deep voice, and being serious, to all of a sudden he cracks a joke and the atmosphere’s super-relaxed and stuff.

Q: What’s the best joke he’s cracked?

A: The one I remember was something [along] the line of him saying he was like sexy, or something like that (smile). Like sexy-good looking.

Q: At a team meeting he just said that?

A: No, we were like loosening up and was like music on, it was rap music, which he, I think, don’t listen to.

Q: What have you learned off the court about Julius Randle?

A: That he truly cares about winning and he truly wants to be great.

Q: What one thing impresses you most about his game?

A: First of all, he’s a physical monster. He’s really good at getting to his spot to the midrange.

Q: Alec Burks, one thing about his game?

A: When he drives and he finishes, the way he like torques his body, it feels like he doesn’t have like … bones. Like a snake a little bit.

Q: RJ Barrett, one thing that stands out about him?

A: He knows how to get to his left hand regardless of the defense, ’cause we all know he’s going left, and he still goes left (laugh).

Q: What have you learned about him off the court?

A: Great person, with a great heart.

Tom Thibodeau
Jason Szenes

Q: Describe Obi Toppin on the court.

A: His athleticism, and his energy. He plays with so much energy, I don’t think he ever stood running, or moving, and he’s great at it.

Q: How about off the court?

A: He doesn’t like food, or at least like good food, which is very disappointing. I took him to a restaurant in D.C., tried to get him to eat tuna tartare, but he would not have it, ’cause it’s raw, so I have to work on that. He’s very stuck in his ways with food.

Q: Kemba Walker off the court.

A: Well, I was with Kemba in Boston already. Kind of like RJ, great guy, great spirit, great heart. Just a genuine person.

Q: What have you learned about Derrick Rose off the court?

A: That he was a spiritual person.

Q: How so?

A: The way he talks, he’s always with his books, reading about stuff. … He just has like a different energy than the rest of us. You can tell he’s really spiritual. Maybe it’s because he went through a lot of injuries and hard times, and he found himself. Being around him is always great.

Q: How about on the court?

A: I didn’t think he was still that fast. He’s still very, very fast.

Q: Do you remember the young Derrick Rose?

A: When I first came in, that was the year he came back, and after three games blew his knee. I remember Andre Miller telling me that there was nobody that could guard him, like nobody.

Q: Immanuel Quickley off the court.

A: Gym rat. That’s off the court, but it’s on the court is gym rat. Wants to be great, and truly cares about basketball.

Q: What does the atmosphere at the Garden do for you internally?

A: When you’re rolling, it’s the best place I’ve ever played. That opening night was probably the loudest arena I’ve ever played in, and they are just giving you that extra energy, really. You can feel it, it gave me like goose bumps at times, and you just want to like scream and yell.

Q: From your Instagram: “The lion may be stronger but the wolf doesn’t perform in circus.”

A: (Laugh) The wolf is my favorite animal. I actually have a tattoo of a wolf [right forearm]. I’m a family guy, wolves operate in a pack, they’re a family. I just like that quote because it’s not necessarily about being the strongest. It just spoke to me.

Q: When did you become interested in wolves?

A: “Balto” was one of my favorite movies. Balto is the Disney character that’s like half-dog, half-wolf. There’s a statue of Balto in Central Park.

Q: “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.”

A: That’s a quote from Darth Vader.

Q: “Go to war with yourself every day.”

A: That’s a quote from David Goggins from the book “Can’t Hurt Me.” Speaking for myself, I have a choice to really go to practice, get better, try to give my best even though I’m tired, sore, don’t feel like doing it. Every day like a constant war between being comfortable and being uncomfortable.

The Knicks Evan Fournier shoots the ball against the Nets.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: And you’re comfortable now.

A: I try to have a comfortable life, but have a mindset of being uncomfortable. If that makes sense.

Q: Is that beneficial?

A: Yeah, like being uncomfortable, so do hard things every day, because I feel like if you’re too comfortable, you become kind of soft and you enjoy life, and I feel like for what I do, you need to have an edge at all times.

Q: Where do you find that edge?

A: Within yourself. The motivation to get better every day, to do something of significance, and it’s not easy. We all know sometimes we have days where we just don’t feel like doing anything. And these are the days that are really important, and that’s where you have to keep pushing.

Q: “Man on a Mission.” What’s your mission?

A: Becoming the best basketball player I can be … win games … be a part of something great. That’s what I’m after.

Q: But you want to be great.

A: Yeah, but some guys just do a little bit more. If you ask everyone, yeah, they all want to be great, but some guys put the work in, some guys don’t.

Q: “Learn to love what you fear.”

A: It’s from Jordan B. Peterson. Face adversity with like a sense of courage, I guess. We all have insecurities, we all have stuff that we don’t like, and instead of like shying away from it, just attack with it with a sense of like strength, you know?

Q: What is the biggest adversity or obstacle you had to overcome?

A: I guess there were two times in my life that were really hard. When I first turned pro, ’cause obviously we don’t go to college [in France], we turn pro. And I turned pro really young, I was 17. And so I decided to live by myself and I had to do everything by myself, with two practices a day — cook, clean, laundry, all that. I was just a kid playing against men. It was extremely hard at first. And the second thing I’d say when I first got to America, so when I was with Denver as a rookie, not knowing the language, not knowing anything really … skinny kid from France, didn’t play a whole lot at first, so I really had to work my way through playing and finding the court and getting stronger and learn a new language and culture. … That was definitely hard.

Q: What was it like representing your country in the 2020 Olympics?

A: Not necessarily the Olympics, but every time you play for your country, there’s a different feeling. There’s more pride. There’s no egos. We don’t get paid, we get nothing, so it’s pure love for the game, and love for your country. You create moments that are unbelievable from it.

Q: What’s your favorite memory when France beat the U.S. in the group phase?

A: When I hit the game-winning shot, I guess (chuckle). My favorite moment ever is either beating Spain in Spain at the World Championships, 2014 quarterfinal, because Spain was like the rival, the enemy. Or playing in the big final versus Team USA, that was cool.

Q: Describe your on-court mentality.

A: I like to think that I have like a fighting mentality. I’m from a family of fighters, both of my parents were judo fighters for the French national team. I carry that with me. And so when I enter the game, I try to play as hard as I can, give my best and don’t back down from anyone.

Q: What drives you?

A: I’ve been around competition my whole life, so it’s something I really enjoy.

Q: If you could pick the brain of any player in NBA history, who would it be?

A: Mike [Jordan].

Q: What would you want to know from him?

A: Everything. Everything from how did he practice, how does he train physically, how does he rest, how does he watch film? … Like, everything.

Q: If you could go one-on-one with any player in NBA history, who would it be?

A: Mike. The best ever, man. The best ever.

Q: Did you learn anything about him watching “The Last Dance”?

A: We didn’t learn much from him because there was so much out there already, but what surprised me really is the management of like someone like Dennis Rodman. I always thought championship teams, everyone is extremely serious and dedicated and blah, blah, blah, and then you see Dennis and how they handle him. They allowed him to be himself, which is, you know, sometimes a little crazy, but by giving him that freedom, and by allowing him to be himself, he was more into the team than if he was more restricted, and I thought that was really interesting because we all know players aren’t necessarily like 100 percent all the time, but instead of fighting them, sometimes you have to give them a little bit of freedom so they can come stronger.

Q: What is your best single NBA moment?

A: I’m gonna go with my first buzzer-beater with Orlando that was against Cleveland.

Q: You played in Orlando with Cole Anthony.

A: There’s no ceiling to how good he can be. He has a lot skills, he’s athletic, and he wants it. So it’s gonna really depend on how hard he works, how serious he takes basketball, and staying injury-free.

Evan Fournier drives past Cole Anthony.

Q: Spike Lee.

A: He really wants us to do well, and he’s like genuine about it. He wants the best for us.

Q: Which players did you like when you first had your NBA dream?

A: Mike Bibby. The first playoff series that I watched ever was the Kings against the Lakers, back when they got robbed (laugh). And the very first game I watched is the game he hits a game-winner.

Q: Tell me about your 2 ¹/₂-year-old son Elias and how fatherhood has changed you.

A: More patient, for sure … maybe I think less about myself.

Q: Tell me about his personality.

A: Very, very active. Strong personality. He really knows what he wants, and he’s gonna fight for it.

Q: You had toy dinosaurs growing up?

A: Actually I did. I was a big fan of “Jurassic Park” movies and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Mike, Nelson Mandela, Dave Chappelle.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “The Two Towers.” That’s the second part of “The Lord of the Rings.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Leonardo DiCaprio.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Emily Blunt.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

A: Burna Boy.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: It’s a dish that’s called Tiep, it’s from Senegal, it’s a mix of rice with fish.

Q: Personal or career goals?

A: Win championships, win gold medals, and have a great career.

Q: Do you want to play in the Olympics again?

A: Oh yeah. Come on man, the next one’s in Paris. You think I’m gonna miss that?

Q: How is the New York stage different?

A: Well, if I complain about Doordash on Twitter, I get to have a gift card from Doordash. … I have to complain about like Ferrari or something (smile).

Q: What do you like best about this Knicks team?

A: The character of the guys. … A team that’s serious about winning, a team that’s serious about the game. … We have guys that love the game. It’s not always the case. Some guys get into basketball because they’re tall, because there’s money … and there’s a togetherness in the group.

Q: What is your message to Knicks fans?

A: Let’s just hope that it’s gonna be a fun ride. And it’s been only two months, but I’ve really enjoyed being a Knick so far. I really do feel like I’m at home. And I hope it’s gonna be home for a long time.


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