Evan Fournier

New York Notes: Simmons, Nets, Knicks, Fournier

Count veteran guard Spencer Dinwiddie among those who’s bullish on Ben Simmons‘ chances of enjoying a big comeback season in 2023/24. As NetsDaily relays, Dinwiddie heaped plenty of praise on his Nets teammate during a recent appearance on Patrick Beverley’s podcast.

“Ben at his best form is a far more athletic Draymond Green with less three-point shooting,” Dinwiddie said. “… When you talk about the defensive IQ, reading passing lanes, quarterbacking a defense, able to guard one through five. He’s one of the only people in the league who can do that, and then obviously he’s getting out on that break.

“… When Ben’s at his best, he’s getting off the rim, he’s being a monster in transition, he’s making plays for others,” Dinwiddie continued. “We hope that there’s enough shooting out there with Mikal (Bridges)Cam Johnson obviously is elite, he’s always shooting 45 (percent) from three … Catch and shoot-wise I’ve been a good three-point shooter in my career. We hope to space the floor for him. He gets out in transition and makes plays. And obviously you’ve got Nic (Claxton) playing above the rim.”

Simmons’ comments in August about how he was eager to “come back and dominate people” after recovering from his back issues were met by many fans with skepticism and some derision. However, people who have spent time around the former No. 1 overall pick this offseason believes those quotes are “based on substance,” according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, who has heard from those sources that Simmons looks like he’s primed for a bounce-back year.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Defensive rebounding and outside shooting look like two potential Nets weaknesses based on their current roster, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who suggests that how Brooklyn overcomes – or addresses – its shortcomings in both areas could go a long way toward determining what sort of season the team has.
  • Michael Pina of The Ringer lays out the case for why the Knicks are in position to target an impact player and why New York may be a more appealing landing spot for stars than it has been for years. In a related story, Adam Zagoria of NJ.com argues that the Knicks should go all-in for trade candidate Jrue Holiday.
  • After stating in July that he’d be “very surprised” if he opens the season with the Knicks, Evan Fournier sounds more resigned to that scenario, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (subscription required), who passes along highlights from Fournier’s appearance earlier this month on French radio station RTL. The veteran wing acknowledged that he doesn’t have much control over the situation, but simply wants the opportunity to play again. “I love living (in New York), I love the franchise, I love playing at Madison (Square Garden), I love the guys on the team,” Fournier said. “So I just want to play, that’s all. It’s true that finding another club, changing franchises, if that’s what you have to do to play again, that’s what I would like to do.”
  • In his latest mailbag, Fred Katz of The Athletic fields questions on Fournier’s status, the Knicks‘ rotation, and Julius Randle‘s recent agency change. While Katz doesn’t believe Randle’s decision to leave CAA means he wants to leave the Knicks, he refers to the move as “significant,” noting that the timing (following the first season of a four-year contract) is unusual.

Knicks Notes: Quickley, Barrett, Fournier, DiVincenzo

There’s optimism surrounding the Knicks’ extension talks with Immanuel Quickley, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The 24-year-old guard is eligible to sign an extension until October 23, which is the day before the regular season begins. If no deal is reached, he will become a restricted free agent next summer.

Sources tell Katz that Knicks management wants to get a long-term deal done with Quickley, who was one of the team’s top scorers at 14.9 PPG last season while finishing second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. He’s viewed as a vital part of an organization that’s on the rise after reaching the second round of the playoffs.

New York doesn’t project to have cap room next summer, Katz adds, so an extension for Quickley won’t affect the team’s free agency plans. Coach Tom Thibodeau appeared to lose faith in Quickley during the playoffs, cutting his minutes during the second-round series with Miami, but Katz doesn’t believe that will be a long-term concern.

Katz also points out that the Knicks were in a similar position last summer with RJ Barrett, who had to wait until September before receiving his four-year, $107MM extension.

There’s more from New York, all courtesy of Katz:

  • Barrett will arrive in training camp in a much different position than he did a year ago. Katz notes that Barrett was concerned with avoiding injury last summer while he waited for his new contract, so he didn’t play much pickup basketball and got off to a slow start. He spent this offseason as one of Canada’s best players on its way to winning a bronze medal at the World Cup. Katz observes that Barrett showed an ability in that tournament to make the right read when confronted by multiple defenders, which might happen often given the Knicks’ lack of outside shooting.
  • The Knicks and Evan Fournier appear stuck with each other even though he said in an offseason interview that it would be a “disaster” if the team didn’t move him this summer. Fournier’s $18.9MM expiring contract could still be valuable in a trade, so Katz expects him to remain on the roster even if he hardly ever plays.
  • New York traded away Obi Toppin, who averaged 15.7 minutes per game last season, and brought in Donte DiVincenzo, who played 26.3 minutes per game with the Warriors, so someone will have their playing time reduced as long as everyone is healthy. Katz points out that Barrett and Quentin Grimes both saw fewer minutes after Josh Hart was acquired in February and speculates that either DiVincenzo could play less than he did with Golden State or he may take away minutes from Quickley.

Atlantic Notes: World Cup Effects, Knicks, Schröder, Porzingis

The Knicks and Nets may benefit from having star players involved in the World Cup this summer, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. New York’s Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart were both starters for Team USA, while RJ Barrett was an important member of the Canadian squad that captured the bronze medal. Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges also started for the Americans and Cameron Johnson was on the team, although he didn’t play as much.

Begley cites research from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (subscription required), who studied the NBA performance of players from 2010 to 2021 after they took part in international competitions. Pelton found they averaged 2.1 points per 100 possessions above the league average.

At last year’s training camp, Begley talked to Evan Fournier, a veteran of international basketball with the French team, about what it’s like to go straight from a tournament to an NBA season with almost no rest in between.

“It really hits you in December; you have the first wave of fatigue,” Fournier said. “It’s not my first time dealing with it, so I know how to manage myself. I know being in the weight room is going to be very important. Sleep is going to be very important, but … I’ll be all right.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks are optimistic after advancing to the conference semifinals last season, but a lack of height at the wings could be a concern, observes Zach Braziller of The New York Post (subscription required). Apart from Barrett, New York has to rely on undersized options such as Hart, Quentin Grimes and Donte DiVincenzo.
  • Dennis Schröder told “NBA Today” that new head coach Darko Rajakovic played an important role in his decision to sign with the Raptors (Twitter link from ClutchPoints). “I think Darko, the head coach,” Schröder said. “… I met him five years ago in OKC. We became friends. … I definitely said to my agent, ‘I want be there.’ … I think it’s a great fit.”
  • The Celtics‘ trade for Kristaps Porzingis was the best offseason move in the Atlantic Division, David Aldridge of The Athletic contends in a discussion of the division with other Athletic writers. However, Aldridge, Josh Robbins and Jared Weiss all agree that Boston took a risk regarding team culture by parting with Marcus Smart in the deal and not keeping Grant Williams. Robbins and Weiss cite the Sixers‘ coaching change, replacing Doc Rivers with Nick Nurse, as the most impactful move.

Atlantic Notes: Gardner, Fournier, Celtics Mock Draft

Center Patrick Gardner agreed to an Exhibit 10 contract with the Nets last month. He’s expecting to end up in the G League this season but hopes to make a major impression during training camp.

“I was fortunate enough to get a training camp invite for the Nets, then depending how I do here and in general, hopefully I could just keep moving up from there. I think I’m gonna be with the G League team, but you never know what could happen, just got to be prepared for all options,” Gardner told FIBA.Basketball.

Gardner is playing for Egypt during the World Cup and was on the Heat’s summer league squad. The Nets reached an agreement with him shortly after he went undrafted out of Marist.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Evan Fournier is confident he can still help the Knicks or another NBA club, he told Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops.net. “Obviously, I want to play again. I want to have success. I know I can help. I know I can play, I know I can do many things,” said Fournier, who represented France during its disappointing World Cup run. Fournier’s career with the Knicks is in limbo as they seek a new home for him. He said last month he’d be “very surprised” if he played  for them this season.
  • With many NFL fantasy football managers drafting their teams this week, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss and Jay King conducted a mock draft of Celtics players. No surprise — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were the first two players off the board.
  • In case you missed it, the Nets’ Ben Simmons plans to come back with a vengeance during the upcoming season. Get the details here.

World Cup Notes: Australia, Antetokounmpo, Gobert, Dort

As expected, the Australian national team tweaked its lineup ahead of Tuesday’s game vs. Japan, replacing Matisse Thybulle with Mavericks wing Josh Green in the starting five, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN (Twitter link). The move paid dividends, as Green recorded 15 points (on 5-of-7 shooting) and four steals to help lead the Boomers to a 109-89 victory, securing the team a spot in the second round of the FIBA World Cup.

With the loss, the Japanese national team has been eliminated from the World Cup, though Suns fans have to be pleased with Yuta Watanabe‘s performance. The new Phoenix forward had 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-8 threes, against Australia.

Here’s more on the 2023 World Cup:

  • An MRI on Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo revealed a “slight stretch” of the adductor muscle in his left thigh, tweets Harris Stavrou of SPORT24. Antetokounmpo is receiving treatment and still hopes to play in Greece’s crucial Wednesday contest vs. New Zealand — the winner will advance to round two, while the loser will be out of the running.
  • Having been eliminated from World Cup contention, France sat three players – including Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert – for Tuesday’s game against Lebanon, per Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press notes (via Twitter), it’d be surprising if Gobert is active for any of the consolation games to determine the Nos. 17-32 seeding. France did defeat Lebanon on Tuesday, with Evan Fournier becoming the country’s all-time leading World Cup scorer, sneaking past teammate Nicolas Batum (285 points to 282).
  • Thunder forward Luguentz Dort is missing his second consecutive game for Team Canada on Tuesday due to a minor injury. However, it sounds like Canada is just playing it safe with Dort and he’ll be available for the start of the next round, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. Canada and Latvia are currently going head-to-head to determine the Group H winner — both teams will advance to round two, but today’s winner would have a leg up to make the knockout round.

Team France Notes: Elimination, Canada, Yabusele, Fournier, Batum

The 2023 FIBA World Cup has registered its first shocking upset. Team France, winners of the silver medal in the 2021 Olympics and led by three-time NBA All-Star center Rudy Gobert, who by day plays for the Timberwolves, has been eliminated from tournament contention after a scant two games, writes The Associated Press. The club will play a third group-play contest on Tuesday vs. Lebanon, but neither club will advance to the next round.

France was bested by Team Latvia, 88-86, Sunday night. Latvia and Team Canada, who defeated France on Friday, now move on to the second round. France had won bronze at the two most recent World Cups, eliminating Team USA in the knockout round in 2019.

Here are more notes on Team France:

  • Following Canada’s win over France on Friday, French forward Guerschon Yabusele, a former Celtics power forward, discussed some quick takeaways from the matchup, per Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoop. “Of course there are a lot of things to learn,” Yabusele said. “The way we came into the game. The first quarter was good and then we entered the second half with less intensity. We let them play and do their stuff. Defense, offense, we all saw what went wrong in the video.”
  • Team Canada’s 95-65 massacre of Team France could serve as a galvanizing moment in the long-term trajectory of the Great White North’s national program, opines Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Such a dominant victory, and hopefully an extended World Cup run, could well set the table for a deep, talented Canadian club to make a legitimate push for a medal in next summer’s Paris Olympics, Grange argues. Thanks to the win on Friday, Grange believes Team Canada should handily storm to a 3-0 record in Group H play.
  • With fifth-ranked France now out of contention, the national team will strive to reset and prep for the 2024 Olympic games, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. As the host nation, France has automatically qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics. “It’s very hard,” Knicks guard Evan Fournier said of his national club’s morale after its miserable 2023 FIBA performance. “Not much to say. We didn’t think we would leave the tournament like this. We have to learn from it and come back next year. There isn’t anything else to do.” Clippers forward Nicolas Batum spoke about the task ahead of France in international competition: “We have a big thing coming up in 12 months. We have to now look back at what happened — everybody, from players to coach to staff to federation. … Today was a big reality check for us.”
  • The 34-year-old Batum confirmed in a live broadcast following France’s defeat that he will not play for his national club in the 2027 FIBA World Cup, according to Eurohoops. “This is my last World Cup,” Batum said. “I sacrificed many summers for this jersey and I don’t regret it… I have one more year left in France. We need them all next summer in Paris. And the best possible conditions. I messed up my last World Cup and it really hurts. That’s why I’m not interested in politics and I want the strongest possible team next summer at the Olympic Games.”

World Cup Notes: Canada, Fournier, USA, Mills, Towns

The Canadian national team hasn’t had a ton of success in international competition in recent years and is missing top players like Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins at this year’s World Cup. However, Team Canada looked formidable its first group-play game on Friday, outscoring a talented French club by 27 points in the second half en route to a 95-65 win.

“We got our ass kicked,” French wing Evan Fournier told reporters after the game, per Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. “… They were really physical with us. Taking us out of our set plays. And as a team I think they kind of forced us to do things that we don’t want to do.”

The Canadians leaned heavily on their NBA talent in the victory, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Luguentz Dort, Dwight Powell, Kelly Olynyk, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker all playing at least 20 minutes. Melvin Ejim was the only other player to log more than five minutes in the game.

Gilgeous-Alexander was the standout, racking up 27 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists in just 27 minutes of action. Powell (+35 in 23 minutes) and Brooks (+33 in 26 minutes) anchored Canada’s aggressive defense.

Canada will face Lebanon on Sunday, while France will look to bounce back against Latvia.

Here’s more on the World Cup:

  • In an Insider-only story, Jonathan Givony and Kevin Pelton of ESPN pick their 15 most interesting players at the World Cup, including reigning NCAA national player of the year Zach Edey (Canada), projected 2024 first-rounder Juan Nunez (Spain) and Fournier (France), who scored a team-high 21 points on Friday after spending most of last season glued to the Knicks‘ bench. A strong World Cup could help earn Fournier a new NBA opportunity via trade or buyout, Pelton notes.
  • Team USA entered Friday as the strong frontrunners to win the 2023 World Cup, but head coach Steve Kerr knows the team can’t afford to get overconfident, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. “Last time through this tournament, we finished seventh, we lost (two) games,” Kerr said. “We recognize how hard this is. These are not the days of 1992. … We may be one of the favorites, but I don’t think anybody’s clear cut. I think there’s a lot of teams that have a shot at this thing.”
  • Following an eventful offseason that saw him traded from Brooklyn to Houston to Oklahoma City to Atlanta, veteran guard Patty Mills provided a reminder on Friday of what he can bring to a team. The Hawks guard scored a team-high 25 points in Australia’s resounding win over Finland. “No surprises there,” Jack White said of Mills’ performance, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN. “We know he can turn it on; that’s what he does… he’s a hell of a leader and it’s what we expect from him.”
  • Prior to the start of the World Cup, Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic about why he’s playing for the Dominican Republic and what it means to him to represent his mother’s native country. Towns and the Dominican Republic team got off to a strong start on Friday, defeating the host Philippines in a game that set a new World Cup attendance record (38,115), as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press details. Towns scored 26 points in the 87-81 win.

International Notes: Walker, Bridges, Lue, Fournier

Kemba Walker talked about promoting the EuroLeague and giving it more worldwide recognition as he arrived in Europe this week to join AS Monaco Basket, writes Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. The free agent point guard, who had been looking for a new team since the Mavericks waived him in January, agreed to a one-year deal with Monaco last month.

“I hope I can help increase the notoriety of the EuroLeague,” Walker said. “To increase the style of play and just built it up more. … It’s a big step. Something different. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity. I just want to play basketball.” 

There are plenty of former NBA players in the EuroLeague, but no one has the resume of Walker, who was a four-time All-Star before a knee injury derailed his career. Even if the experience in Europe doesn’t lead to another NBA opportunity, Walker is hoping to show that he can still play at a high level.

“I’m looking forward to be in a different environment,” he said. “Learning my teammates. Meeting new people… the coaching staff, medical guys, everything. Basketball is basketball. And I’m here to win games.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Mikal Bridges is enjoying his first time representing the U.S. in international competition, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Bridges won two national titles at Villanova and has developed into an elite player with Phoenix and Brooklyn, but he considers playing for the World Cup team to be the highlight of his career. “It’s definitely surreal, just being here, having these colors on, having USA across the chest,” he said. “When Steve (Kerr) first talked to me about being on the team, I was in Phoenix then, and when he called, it was already a ‘Pinch me’ moment. And when I got the official call from Grant (Hill) asking me to be on the team, I was like, ‘Oh shoot, we’re really doing this.’”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is part of Kerr’s staff after an injury cost him a chance to join Team USA as a player in 1997, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “I think it’s an honor,” Lue said. “You grow up watching basketball, watching the Olympic team, the Dream Team, you always want to play for those teams. I wasn’t good enough, but it’s amazing to have an opportunity to represent my country in any capacity. So, coaching is what it is.”
  • French guard Evan Fournier reached a milestone Wednesday by taking part in the 100th international game of his career, according to Eurohoops. The Knicks‘ guard had 10 points and two assists in a win over Japan.

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Porzingis, Wilson, Knicks

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported last week that the Raptors and All-Star forward Pascal Siakam have yet to seriously engage in negotiations on a possible contract extension.

Should Toronto offer him a max extension, which would start at 30% of the 2024/25 salary cap? Eric Koreen of The Athletic weighs the pros and cons of a new deal for Siakam, who is entering the final year of his contract.

While he believes Siakam is worthy of a max deal and that extending him makes more sense than losing him for nothing, Koreen wonders if a lengthy extension would leave the Raptors stuck in the middle again in the short term. However, if Siakam continues to play well, an extension could boost his trade value down the line, since he would be on a long-term contract instead of an expiring deal, Koreen adds.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Jay King and Josh Robbins of The Athletic examine how Kristaps Porzingis will fit with the Celtics. Robbins points out that the Wizards had a good deal of success with a two-big lineup featuring Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, which could be beneficial for Boston’s frontcourt, since Al Horford and Robert Williams are more well-rounded players than Gafford is. Having Porzingis as another weapon alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could make the Celtics’ second-ranked offense even more potent in ’23/24, according to King. Both writers state that the biggest question mark surrounding the acquisition is Porzingis’ health — in case you missed it, the Latvian big man recently revealed he’s dealing with plantar fasciitis, though the Celtics expect him to be ready for training camp.
  • Nets second-rounder Jalen Wilson was a star in college last season for Kansas, but he knows he won’t have the ball in his hands very often entering his rookie season, he tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (subscriber link). “College for sure, was different,” said Wilson. “I had the ball in my hands a lot. I had to do a lot of things for my team. Take a lot of tough shots. Now, I think as I showed in Summer League and moving forward in the NBA, I won’t have to take those tough shots at the buzzer. I won’t have to take contested shots over double teams. This isn’t Kansas. This is the Brooklyn Nets. So I feel like the load being less, my numbers (efficiency) will increase. And I feel like I showed that in Summer League. And I’m excited to continue to show it.” The young forward, who is on a two-way deal, was named to the All-Summer League Second Team last month, Bondy notes.
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic covers a number of Knicks-related topics in his latest mailbag, including where they might finish in the East during the regular season, their most likely trade candidates, and the team’s power forward depth. As far as trade candidates go, Katz believes Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley are the top three options. Fournier is an obvious one since he doesn’t want to return after being benched most of last season, and his expiring deal could be useful for salary-matching purposes. Barrett is mostly included for financial reasons, particularly if the Knicks want to trade for a star. League sources tell The Athletic that Quickley’s name has popped up in trade discussions this summer, though the Knicks have placed a high value on the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up. Quickley is eligible for a rookie scale extension, Katz notes, but there doesn’t appear to be any rush to get a deal done.

Spurs Interested In Evan Fournier?

In addition to a few playoff hopefuls, the Spurs have also shown some interest in trading for Knicks wing Evan Fournier, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

As Begley outlines, Fournier shares an agent with fellow Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick of last month’s draft. Fournier spoke last week about being intrigued by the possibility of joining San Antonio.

The 30-year-old’s $18.9MM pseudo-expiring contract (he has a team option worth $19MM in 2024/25) wouldn’t be viewed favorably by rival teams after he was pulled from New York’s rotation early last season. Fournier appeared in just 27 games in ’22/23, averaging 6.1 PPG and 1.8 RPG while shooting career worsts of 40.4% on twos and 30.7% on threes.

On the other hand, Fournier started all 80 of his games in ’21/22, averaging 14.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.0 SPG while converting the fourth-most three-pointers in the league (241, a career high). He holds a career mark of 37.9% from beyond the arc.

After making multiple deals this offseason, the Spurs no longer have the salary cap room to accommodate Fournier’s salary outright, Begley notes — they’d have to send salary back to adhere to the NBA’s trade rules. The Knicks also haven’t shown any inclination to attach draft assets to move off Fournier’s contract, Begley adds, but presumably would be more open to doing so if they could get a potential rotation player or two in return.

Fournier has come up in a couple other trade rumors this summer, but he remains on the Knicks’ roster for now, although he certainly hopes that isn’t the case when the season starts. It’s worth noting that Begley’s article is a week old, and a report a few days ago indicated Fournier could eventually become a buyout candidate if New York can’t trade him.

Begley’s mailbag column also touches on a handful of other topics. For example, he expresses skepticism that the Knicks were ever seriously interested in Bulls guard/forward Zach LaVine this offseason, despite having exploratory trade talks on the two-time All-Star at the February deadline. Begley also hears the Raptors were shutting down trade inquiries on OG Anunoby — a player the Knicks like — earlier this month.