New York Post

Evan & hell

After falling out of Thibs’ rotation, Fournier feels he’s still in prime

- By ZACH BRAZILLER

Evan Fournier paused after listening to the question. “Do you want to be here?” After initially protesting it, the veteran wing answered with insight.

“Best-case scenario, I want to stay here. I want to play here,” he said. “I had a bunch of different choices in free agency and I wanted to be a Knick. I love New York. I wanted to play for [Tom Thibodeau]. So I’d love to stay, but I’d love to play.”

Sunday night in Toronto, he was back as part of Thibodeau’s rotation out of necessity. Sixth man Immanuel Quickley missed his first game of the season with left knee soreness, and Thibodeau went with Fournier, who scored eight points in 21 minutes. He started poorly, missing his first four shots, but did help as the game went on in his first action since Jan. 9.

“Hard to assess,” he said, when asked about his play. “First shot went very short, obviously. When you don’t play like that, you can lose rhythm and stuff. You try to impact the game somehow. I definitely missed shots in the first half. I was trying to make the right play, just kick it to guys that are open. Nothing crazy. Could’ve been worse, could’ve been a lot better.”

It figures to be an interestin­g few weeks for Fournier and the skidding Knicks as the Feb. 9 trade deadline nears. He is making $18 million this season and will make $18.9 million next season before having a $19 million club option the following year.

That’s pricey for someone not getting regular minutes. Dating back to Nov. 13, the 30year-old sharpshoot­er has only played when regulars have been hurt after setting the Knicks’ record for most made 3-pointers in a season last year and starting on opening night.

There isn’t a specific area of his game that has to improve to get regular minutes, at least not that he has been told by the coaching staff.

“It’s just the way things are right now,” the thoughtful 6-foot-6 wing from France said.

When Fournier does get minutes, he has done his best to earn more, with the understand­ing that it is out of his control. He took Sunday for what it was: An opportunit­y that won’t be there in the Knicks’ next game if Quickley returns to action. It doesn’t mean he is happy to be watching instead of playing.

“I’m in the best shape of my career. I should be in my prime. I am in my prime,” he said. “You want to play, for sure. Especially as a competitor. It’s not like I forgot how to play. Last year I had a different role and somehow I was able to break a 30-year-old franchise record. So I am going to find a way to adapt to any situation.”

If he is traded, which would be the second time in his 11-year career, so be it. He stopped monitoring trade rumors years ago, preferring to take a nap through the deadline. In a perfect world, Fournier would remain a Knick, but be part of the on-court solution moving forward. That, however, may not be reality.

➤ Quickley (sore left knee) is questionab­le for Tuesday’s game at the Garden against the Cavaliers.

 ?? Getty Images ?? MISSING PIECE: Evan Fournier got into his first game since Jan. 9 against the Raptors, scoring eight points in 21 minutes.
Getty Images MISSING PIECE: Evan Fournier got into his first game since Jan. 9 against the Raptors, scoring eight points in 21 minutes.

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