Almost every explanation of where the Knicks' season went wrong starts with the offseason moves: signing Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker to boost a struggling offense. However, while the gamble on Walker returning as a hometown hero fizzled, pointing a finger at Fournier might be unfair.
While the decisions of the summer can be debated — hello, DeMar DeRozan! — what the Knicks have gotten from Fournier falls right in line with what the expectations could have been. He's averaging 14.4 points per game and shooting 39.5% from three-point range.
Fournier has heard the criticism and says he doesn’t worry about it.
"It’s hard to get credit when the team’s not winning," he said. "It’s a team sport. It’s not about individuals. We haven’t been winning, so of course you’re going to get criticized. It’s always the players who spend the most time on the floor, and I’m one of them. So it’s legit to be criticized. It only gives me more motivation to get better, to come back and work on my game."
During Wednesday night's win over Portland, the 29-year-old wing became the second player in franchise history with at least 200 three-point field goals in a season. With 13 games to play, he is only 16 behind John Starks for the franchise record and 38 ahead of Reggie Bullock, the player he replaced in the lineup this season.
"It’s cool, especially for a franchise like the Knicks with such a big history and so many great players," Fournier said. "I didn’t really start the year thinking about any of that. The first time I saw something about the record was post-All-Star break. it’s so hard not to notice now with social media, so many stats out there. That’s fun, but to be honest, that was never a focus of mine. It was more about how we played."
It is a role for most players working around Julius Randle: providing an escape path for him to spray the ball out when a double-team comes. Fournier has had his share of offensive explosions, including a career-high 41 points against Boston.
"When you look at his shot profile, it’s very good," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He’s probably over 200 now, which is significant. For any off guard, it’s finding rhythm. Timing, spacing, rhythm for a shooter is critical. So I think his teammates are looking for him more. He knows when it’s coming more. There’s still work to be done where we can, I think, take advantage of him even more."
"It says more about the way I was able to adapt," Fournier said. "When you look at the number of threes I’ve taken this year, I’ve never played so much behind the three-point line in my career. That’s probably why it took me a couple of months to figure it out, what was my role and how I was going to be able to impact winning and impact the team.
"I think it shows I’m able to adapt to any situation. Earlier in my career, I was much more of a driver. It’s actually good to be able to adapt, to add weapons to your arsenal, to try different things and experience different things. Depending on the system, on the players you’re playing with, you’re not going to be able to dictate how you play. There’s only a few guys that can do that, superstars."
He has done more at times, adding a season-high six assists Wednesday — including an over-the-head pass to Randle on a fast break. His defense is not on the level that Bullock’s was, but Thibodeau praised his team defensive ability and his intelligence.
"Obviously, he’s a tremendous shooter, but he can do a lot of different things," Randle said. "Very skilled player. Very skilled offensive player. Extreme competitor. A lot of people don’t know that about him. He’s really smart. He has a high basketball IQ. He knows how to play off of me, knows how to play off of [RJ Barrett], finds his spots. Really efficient with how he goes out there and plays the game."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks waived Luka Samanic, who was on a two-way contract but never made it to the NBA roster. The Knicks are adding Feron Hunt, a forward from the G League’s Texas Legends, on a two-way contract to fill the final roster spot.