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Evan Fournier quickly at home in New York with Knicks

Knicks guard Evan Fournier reacts after he made

Knicks guard Evan Fournier reacts after he made a three-point basket against the Celtics at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

ORLANDO — Arriving here, the city where he spent 6 1/2 seasons before a midseason trade to Boston seven months ago, Evan Fournier felt the pangs of a homecoming.

He felt the odd circumstance of entering through the visitors' entrance, being in the visitors' locker room and even staying in a hotel around the block from the Amway Center rather than heading to the home he had here.

He has quickly acclimated to his new home, though. Perhaps no player has embraced New York quite as much as Fournier has, posting on social media his new adventures around the city and showing off the new restaurants he is trying. Even his dog, Simba, has gone from enjoying the dog park in the suburbs near his old home in Orlando to hunting rats in Central Park.

And after Fournier's 32-point performance in his season-opening debut at Madison Square Garden, including 12 points on four three-point field goals in the two overtimes to help the Knicks to a win over Boston, the city might be embracing him, too.

After the exhausting victory Wednesday night, Knicks fans flooded into the streets outside the Garden and an expletive-filled video was posted on Twitter celebrating the win. Fournier quote-tweeted it with the message, "What did I get myself into?"

"I thought it was hilarious," Fournier said at the Knicks' morning shootaround Friday. "They’re crazy, but they’re passionate. And when you play, that’s what you want; you want a fan base that’s really pushing you, and like I said postgame, the energy that they gave us against the Celtics was a big reason we won the game."

Fournier struggled through the preseason games, not looking quite accustomed to his fit in the new lineup alongside Julius Randle, who remains the clear leader of the team. But he said before the opener that the preseason schedule was a time for practice and that he would be ready. He lived up to his word with the opening night effort, joining Randle to become the first pair of Knicks teammates with at least 30 points each in a season opener.

"You want to start like that, obviously, veteran or not," Fournier said. "I don’t know what to say. You try to take it one day at a time, focus on what’s next. What’s next for us is shootaround and tonight’s game. I really don’t think ahead of it. Just try to get locked in and ready."

While he may not have had many big stages in the NBA, never making it past the first round of the playoffs in his career, he starred for France in the Olympics. Those who know him have little doubt he will embrace the New York stage.

"You seen what he did that first game, so he’s obviously comfortable," said Orlando’s Cole Anthony, who played with Fournier last season before the guard was traded to the Celtics and signed with the Knicks as a free agent. "I’m sure he’s loving New York. I’ve seen Instagram stories that he’s eating good. So I think he got a little fat. I’m going to talk to him tonight and tell him get on a diet with me.

"He’s just a guy who has never been afraid of the moment. He’s been doing what he’s doing now in New York his whole career. He can really play, and that’s what New York dudes need. He’s going to be fine. Also, he got a big personality. He don’t speak the best English, but his personality is there."

There is one change for Fournier in his return to Orlando. For their home opener, the Magic were expecting a sellout crowd, but the fan base often has shifted to rooting for New York with snowbird New Yorkers taking the tickets.

"Of course I remember," Fournier said. "You actually hate it. There’s a few teams like that. There’s a lot of Miami fans, Boston, New York and Spurs. It’s a horrible feeling. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I’m looking forward to it 100%. I’m looking forward to seeing the Knicks fans."

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