Evan Fournier

Knicks Notes: Randle, Toppin, Fournier, Trade Deadline, Barrett

After a slow start to the season, Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle says he’s not concerned with the reactions from the media or fans, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

I really don’t give a f— what anybody has to say, to be honest,” Randle said Wednesday. “I’m out there playing. Nobody knows the game out there better than I do, compared to what everybody has to say. So I really don’t give a s—. I just go out there and play.”

Randle scored 30 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and dished out four assists in New York’s 104-94 victory over Indiana on Tuesday, his first game back after contracting COVID-19. His season averages of 19.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 4.9 APG on .423/.327/.767 shooting are down from last season’s All-Star campaign, when he averaged 24.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 6.0 APG on .456/.411/.811 shooting.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • In a member-only article for the New York Post, Marc Berman spoke to NBA experts to explore what has been hindering Obi Toppin‘s three-point shot. The second-year forward has carved out a rotational role off the bench this season, but is shooting just 21.1% from deep on 1.7 attempts per game.
  • Free agent addition Evan Fournier had been struggling of late, but coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t consider sending him to the bench, according to Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post. “Not really,” Thibodeau said Wednesday, when asked if he had considered trying Fournier with the second unit. Never known for his defense, Fournier was shooting a career-low 40.3% from the field through 37 games this season, all starts. “Even when he’s not shooting, he spaces the floor for us, so I do like that aspect,” Thobodeau said. “The one thing [is] about trying to get our second unit to stay intact as much as we can. Those guys have played really well together for a while now.” Fournier justified Thibodeau’s faith by erupting for 41 points against Boston on Thursday.
  • Thibodeau was a driving force behind the team signing Fournier in the offseason, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who explores moves the Knicks might consider making at the trade deadline. Fischer notes that the Knicks have had internal discussions about acquiring Ben Simmons, but they’ve never called the Sixers with any type of deal structure, according to league sources. Fischer also writes that freeing a roster spot by becoming involved in the Rajon Rondo trade gives New York added flexibility ahead of the deadline.
  • In order for the Knicks to become a legitimate title contender, the team needs 21-year-old RJ Barrett to develop into a star, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post opines. Like Randle, Barrett had a strong performance on Tuesday, scoring 32 points, but his shooting percentages are down this season compared to last. Barrett banked in a game-winning three at the buzzer to beat the Celtics 108-105 on Thursday night.

Knicks Notes: Knox, Fournier, Walker, Toppin

Forward Kevin Knox entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Thursday, becoming the fourth Knicks player to do so within the last week, per an announcement from the team (via Twitter). Knox joins RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Quentin Grimes in the protocols and will be unavailable for at least 10 days or until he returns two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart.

It’s unfortunate timing for Knox, who played 49 total minutes in the Knicks’ last two games after having logged just 22 minutes across six games in the first seven-plus weeks of the regular season. We’ll see if he gets a chance to earn playing time once he clears the protocols and is available again.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • As Steve Popper of Newsday writes, determining a starting lineup and rotation with a COVID-depleted roster was already turning a challenge for head coach Tom Thibodeau, who will now be down one more player for at least the team’s Thursday game in Houston.
  • Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker became trade-eligible on Wednesday, and while Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post could imagine the Knicks moving Walker by February 10, he says it’s more difficult to envision a deal involving Fournier, who is in the first season of a four-year contract. For what it’s worth, another report this week indicated there’s very little interest around the league in Walker.
  • In his latest mailbag for The Athletic, Fred Katz explores the Knicks’ defensive struggles, what’s next for Kemba, and whether there’s room for Obi Toppin to take on a larger role.

New York Notes: Claxton, Kemba, Noel, Thibs

The return of springy young Nets big man Nicolas Claxton to action could help improve the uneven play of All-Star shooting guard James Harden, says Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post. Claxton, much like Harden’s former Rockets running mate Clint Capela, can serve as a prime rim-rolling recipient of Harden lobs. Claxton has appeared in just six Brooklyn games for the 2021/22 season due to a non-COVID-19 illness.

“It would be great to get Nic going again, getting him fully functioning again,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said of Claxton’s return. “We saw him Friday night and obviously it looked like he hadn’t played in a while, was fouling and just a little out of rhythm. And that’s normal for a guy who has had that much of a layoff, lost a bunch of weight, is trying to get himself back in shape. By the end of the year, we would love Nic to be a great add to what we do on both ends of the floor.”

On Tuesday night, in a 102-99 defeat of the Mavericks, Claxton suited up for nearly 21 minutes off the bench. The 6’11” big man logged six points and nine boards in just his second game back from his illness.

There’s more out of the Big Apple:

  • The Knicks would likely consult Kemba Walker were they to seriously consider trading the veteran point guard, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Walker, a former four-time All-Star with the Hornets and Celtics, has been demoted from starter to DNP-CD, and has not suited up for New York at all since November 26. The 31-year-old is averaging career lows of 11.7 PPG, 3.1 APG and 2.6 RPG.
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel returned to New York’s starting lineup, replacing Mitchell Robinson in the role, ahead of Tuesday night’s 121-109 victory over the 8-15 Spurs, per Steve Popper of Newsday. Noel took and made just one field goal, but also chipped in eight rebounds, three dimes, one steal and a block in the win. Robinson, meanwhile, enjoyed a terrific night with the second unit, notching 11 points and 14 boards. The Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak with the victory and returned to .500 on the season with a 12-12 record. Robinson conceded that, as a result of an offseason surgery and subsequent weight gain, he has struggled with his conditioning, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News“I’m getting tired real quick,” Robinson said before Tuesday’s game. “I run for about six or seven minutes, and then boom — I’m gassed. So it’s something I need to work on real bad … I wish I could jump right back into it and be who I was before the injury.”
  • Much like his former boss Jeff Van Gundy in the 1998/99 NBA season, current Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau may have to figure out major rotational changes to improve the up-and-down Knicks this year, per Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. Among those adjustments, Vaccaro suggests potentially exploring more run for emerging second-year power forward Obi Toppin and rookie shooting guard Quentin Grimes, and possibly reducing the role of defensive sieve Evan Fournier, whom New York added on a four-year, $78MM contract via a sign-and-trade with the Celtics this past summer.

Knicks Notes: Walker, Barrett, Randle, Fournier

It sounds like Knicks guard Kemba Walker won’t see regular playing time unless he reclaims his starting job, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Walker, who was pulled from the rotation earlier this week, didn’t leave the bench in this afternoon’s loss to the Nuggets, even as New York fell behind by 30 points.

“As I mentioned before when I made that decision, I view Kemba as a starter,” coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. “… I do have respect for him, he’s part of the team. And right now we have a rotation, he’s not in the rotation but he’s working in practice, he’s doing all the things he should be doing.”

Walker, who hasn’t talked to the media since his demotion, has been a disappointment this season, even at the discount price of $18MM over two years. He’s scoring 11.7 points per game, down from 19.3 PPG last season with the Celtics, and his arthritic left knee limits his effectiveness on defense.

Neither Walker nor backcourt partner Evan Fournier has lived up to what the Knicks expected when they pursued them in free agency. Multiple sources tell Bondy that Thibodeau urged the front office to keep Reggie Bullock, who signed with Dallas for $30.5MM over three years.

There’s more from New York:

  • Thibodeau believes RJ Barrett needs more repetition to fix his three-point shot, Bondy adds. After connecting at 40.1% from beyond the arc last season, Barrett has slumped to 32.1%. “You get rhythm when you work and last year he got going when he started coming in every night to shoot,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s no notion of, ‘OK, I’ll do it sometimes.’ No, you got to do it all the time. When you did it, you shot 40 from 3. So get back in the gym, get back to improving your shot.”
  • At 11-12, the Knicks are now under .500 for the first time this season, and Julius Randle believes the team has lost the defensive identity that it relied on last year, per Marc Berman of The New York Post“It’s who we are as a team, how we built this team and this culture is just fighting defensively, the togetherness, just the effort, the hustle plays,” Randle said. “I feel like that’s what the city of New York loves. That’s what the fans love — when they know we’re out there giving it our all. And I think sometimes we’re too lax.’’ 
  • Fournier talks about Thibodeau, some of his new teammates and several other subjects in a wide-ranging interview with Steve Serby of The New York Post.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Tatum, Fournier, Randle

Following Sunday’s loss against the Nuggets, the Knicks are now 11-12, giving them the 11th-best record in the Eastern Conference and putting them 5.5 games behind first place. After finishing last season fourth in the conference, the team’s sudden mediocrity is puzzling, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post contends.

“We have to understand we have to be more consistent and get guys healthy,” Julius Randle said, clearly not deterred by his team’s underwhelming start to the season. “But we’ll be fine. A great run could put us at the top of the East in two weeks. We just have to have a sense of urgency.” 

New York signed Kemba Walker to a two-year, $18MM deal in free agency, but head coach Tom Thibodeau recently pulled him from the rotation. Walker struggled defensively and the starting lineup had noticeable chemistry issues. The team has since started Alec Burks in his place, choosing to keep Derrick Rose in his role off the bench.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic:

  • Celtics star Jayson Tatum dismissed the notion that he’s been playing selfish basketball, Jay King of The Athletic writes. A recent ESPN story from Tim Bontemps quoted an anonymous assistant coach who questioned how bad Tatum wants to win. “I laughed,” Tatum said when asked about the topic. “I think when people get upset or you get a reaction out of somebody, it’s probably because they feel like it’s kind of true. But I just laughed because I know it’s not true. I know my teammates, my coaches, anybody I’ve ever been around, selfish is the last thing.”
  • The Knicks will need energy from Evan Fournier to help turn their season around, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. Fournier, who signed a multi-year contract to join the team in free agency, has started in all 23 games this season. He’s coming off a campaign where he averaged 17.1 points per game, splitting time between Orlando and Boston.
  • Speaking of Fournier, Peter Botte of the New York Post examines the recent disagreement between him and Randle that was caught on camera. The Knicks teammates engaged in a heated debate before halftime of the club’s loss to Chicago on Thursday. “It was a disagreement over I think the last defensive play about the double [team] and the rebounding,” Fournier said. “It was just frustration. But I think the key was it was communicating.” 

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Claxton, Fournier, Burks

Appearing on Toucher and Rich on Boston radio on Thursday morning, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens expressed displeasure with one of the quotes included in Tim Bontemps’ ESPN report on the team last week. As we relayed, an anonymous assistant coach who spoke to Bontemps questioned Jayson Tatum‘s desire to win, suggesting that the forward only wants to win “on his terms.” Stevens vehemently disagreed, calling the comment “a joke.”

“I thought that quote was absolutely ridiculous, to be honest,” Stevens said, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “I don’t ever react to that stuff and I actually sent a note to one of the people I work with like, ‘This is idiotic.’ Just be around (Tatum) every day. That guy loves to win. He’s sitting there with his feet in the ice bucket after every game that we lose and he looks despondent. This guy’s competitive. I know that for a fact. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Stevens said that anonymous assistant coach shouldn’t be making that sort of comment without putting his name to it, but acknowledged that wouldn’t happen because it would provide Tatum with bulletin-board material when the Celtics played the assistant’s team.

“Jayson would kill him every time he played him for the rest of his career,” Stevens said. “That’s the way those guys in this league are wired.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Nets center Nicolas Claxton, a restricted free agent in 2022, recently hired new representation, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link), who says Claxton has signed with CAA Sports. Bondy adds that the non-COVID illness which has kept the big man out of action since October 25 is mononucleosis. Claxton appears to be nearing a return though. As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN notes (via Twitter), he’s not listed on the team’s latest injury report for Friday’s game.
  • Ian O’Connor of The New York Post says the Knicks‘ benching of Kemba Walker should send a message to Evan Fournier, another one of the team’s major free agent additions whose play has been inconsistent since he arrived in New York.
  • The decision to pull Walker out of the rotation and start Alec Burks is paying early dividends for the Knicks, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Burks has led New York in scoring in his first two games as a starter and the team is playing better defense.

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Fournier, Durant, Harden

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam erupted for 32 points and eight rebounds against Sacramento on Friday, his sixth game after recovering from shoulder surgery. Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets that Siakam, who bounced back from a four-point game against Utah, is still trying to gain a rhythm.

“Last game I felt like I was running in mud the whole game,” Siakam said. “It’s just waking up every day continuing to push forward knowing it’s going to be tough, but once I get that rhythm and my legs under me I know what I can do, and I have to focus on that.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Evan Fournier, the Knicks’ major sign-and-trade acquisition this summer, hasn’t been playing in fourth quarters lately and it’s been an adjustment for the swingman, Mark Sanchez of the New York Post writes. “I think the situation right now is I don’t know how many minutes I’m going to play, so I have to have the mindset of: If I’m going to play 20 minutes, then just come out the gate with extreme energy,” he said. “Being very alert. Being ultra-aggressive. And trying to have an impact.”
  • Kevin Durant missed his first game of the season on Friday due to a shoulder ailment. The Nets are trying to figure out how much to play Durant and James Harden during the regular season without wearing them out prior to the postseason, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “I think that we definitely are going to look for our spots to protect them,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. “We just have to be very strategic. We’re a new team trying to find itself and trying to form that identity. Those guys are super-competitive, so they want to play. It’s a tricky balance.”
  • The league’s crackdown on offensive moves in which players move into defender’s bodies to draw fouls has affected Harden. He’s going to the line less and committing more turnovers, Sanchez notes. The Nets star says he’s still getting used to the new parameters. “We’re in a little bit of a funk right now in a sense of just everything,” Harden said.

Atlantic Notes: Curry, Bassey, Riller, Fournier

Seth Curry has been one of the bright spots in the early portion of the season for the Sixers, averaging a career-high 15.7 PPG with an outstanding shooting line of .515/.443/.935. Curry recently spoke to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype about a number of topics, including the early portion of his career, his breakout season, the Ben Simmons situation, career goals, and more.

Scotto asked Curry what has led him to the breakout season he’s having. Curry says he’s a well-rounded offensive player, no matter who’s in the lineup.

I think I’m a pretty versatile player. I can catch and shoot, stretch the floor, play off guys who draw a lot of attention like Joel [Embiid] and Ben [Simmons]. When those guys are out, I feel like I can play in the pick-and-roll. My mid-range game is pretty good. I think I can put the ball on the floor and score. I just pride myself on being able to do a lot of different things offensively and taking good shots,” Curry said.

The interview is worth checking out in full.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Sixers rookie center Charles Bassey, the last 2021 draft pick to sign a contract, recently flashed significant potential in Embiid’s absence, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Sixers two-way player Grant Riller has recovered from meniscus surgery and is now playing in the G League, tweets Gina Mizell of the Inquirer.
  • Knicks guard Evan Fournier knows he needs to bring more to the table earlier in the game in light of his recent fourth-quarter benchings, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I think the situation right now is I don’t know how many minutes I’m going to play, so I have to have the mindset of if I’m going to play 20 minutes, then just come out the gate with extreme energy,” Fournier said. “Being very alert. Being ultra-aggressive. And trying to have an impact.”

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Knicks Offense, Irving, Millsap

The Raptors’ Yuta Watanabe initially feared he tore his Achilles when he injured his left leg early in the preseason, he told Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Watanabe was diagnosed with a calf strain that has continued to keep him out of action. He aggravated the injury in a preseason practice with the team’s G League squad.

“Really frustrating,” Watanabe said. “My leg is painful, but what is the most painful is now that (my teammates are) playing basketball — like, that’s what I love doing it. So it’s been very stressful, to be honest. I just love playing basketball.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks retooled their roster with the additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier but the offense has deteriorated almost game by game, Steve Popper of Newsday notes. The Knicks are 19th in the league in field goal percentage. “It’s just weird out there right now,” Julius Randle said. “That’s the best way I could describe it. It’s just kind of weird and just a little bit choppy and we’re just trying to figure it out. I think everybody’s hearts and intentions are in the right place. It’s just a little weird right now.”
  • A lopsided loss to Golden State and Stephen Curry this week showed how much the Nets miss Kyrie Irving, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines. Curry had 37 points, including nine 3-pointers, on just 19 shots as Brooklyn couldn’t keep up with the red-hot Warriors.
  • Nets forward Paul Millsap has been away from the team but it’s not related to his limited playing time this season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. “Paul’s away for personal reasons and that’s totally separate from basketball,” coach Steve Nash said. Millsap joined the Nets on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal.

Knicks Notes: Barrett, Fournier, Randle, Walker

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau lost patience with his starting lineup Wednesday and with the theory that they need more time together to be effective. RJ Barrett, one of the holdovers from last season, agrees that the starters haven’t played well enough but believes the problems will eventually work themselves out, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“Everything takes time — any new team,’’ Barrett said. “No one’s going to have it right away off the bat. It takes time. We’re trying to figure out who we are if we’re going to be consistent. I think this whole team. Even though we were together last year, the guys that were here, we’re still learning each other, so we’re gonna keep growing, improving.’’

New York is 7-6, but all five starters are posting negative plus-minus ratings. Evan Fournier, who was added in free agency over the summer, believes the offense has gotten “very stagnant” when the starting lineup is on the court together.

“We started really well, shooting the ball well, sharing the ball, et cetera,” he said. “Now it’s not as good. So are we playing not as well because we are missing shots or are we missing shots because we aren’t sharing the ball.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks aren’t getting their money’s worth from Fournier so far, Berman states in a separate story. They signed him for $78MM over four years, but Thibodeau appears to have lost confidence in him late in games. Berman points out that Fournier has been benched for the final 14 minutes of the last two contests, both losses, and he isn’t providing the clutch shots or hustle on defense that the team needs.
  • Another issue is a lack of chemistry between new point guard Kemba Walker and Julius Randle, Berman adds. Both players are used to controlling the ball, and a scout tells Berman that Randle “pouts” when he feels he doesn’t have it enough. Berman notes that Randle, who had five turnovers in Friday’s loss to the Hornets, is starting to revert to iso-ball habits. “I definitely think there’s games where we’re being outworked, outrebounded,’’ Randle said. “Our identity’s not our defensive end (like) how it has been. But we know that. We know we got to fix it. We just got to keep working at it, just keep coming together and stay together.’’
  • Sopan Deb of The New York Times examines what has gone wrong with the Knicks’ defense, which was the core of the team’s identity last season.