In the locker room after the Knicks' final game of the playoffs, Evan Fournier made his intentions clear. He knew he has no future in New York, and he was OK with that. As he had throughout the season, he tried to take the high road.
But while speaking with Yann Ohnona from the French newspaper L’Equipe, Fournier skipped the niceties and burned all the bridges on his exit out of New York. The only problem: He hasn’t made an exit yet.
That may have been caused by Fournier's frustration that the Knicks have not made a move with him yet, and it could make it more difficult to make one.
"You want to spit on everyone,” Fournier said in L’Equipe. "You have hatred. Derrick Rose and I looked at each other and said to each other: 'What the hell are we doing here?' During the five-on-five practice, we were on the side like some prospects. Uncool times.”
Rose got out, refusing to pick up his option for next season and signing with Memphis, but Fournier, with an $18.9 million contract for the upcoming season, remains on the roster. He appeared in only 27 games last season — and not once in the playoffs — after setting a franchise record for made three-point field goals in the previous season.
Fournier has his strengths — shooting, playmaking — but also has his weaknesses on the defensive end, and that was what dropped him out of the rotation with the Knicks.
He understandably is frustrated with wasting time in what he considers the prime of his career. A source indicated earlier this summer that if no deal is done, Fournier likely will be bought out, but for the Knicks, his contract remains an asset for now. With some low-cost pieces on their roster, a potential trade for a star might need his salary added in as an expiring deal.
Fournier has understood this, and that’s why when he was asked at season’s end if he would be shocked if he isn’t moved, he said, “I mean, wouldn’t you guys be surprised? Yeah, so there you go. Eleven years in, big contract, they’re obviously trying to develop the young guys. I didn’t play this year, so why would you bring me back?”
As the summer has worn on, though, Fournier’s patience apparently has worn out.
"If you want to trade me with a good return, why didn't you use me?” he told L’Equipe. “I was coming out of a season where I was the fourth-best three-point shooter in the league. Why not take advantage of it? Now they won't get anything interesting and that's normal because I couldn't show anything.”
The problem for Fournier is that his interests and the interests of the Knicks remain at odds. Just like the situations in Portland and Philadelphia, where stars are demanding trades — with no ability to actually force the hands of their front office — the Knicks are still holding on until they can use his contract or are convinced that they have no ability to get a return.
Fournier fears this. He gave up a season at 30 years old and will turn 31 in late October as the season gets underway. He knows that wasting another year on the bench could ruin him.
"I would be shot. I'm going to be traded, it's not possible otherwise. Or I'd be stuck, and so would they,'' he told L'Equipe. " . . . If I stayed, it would be a disaster basketball-wise for my career. I can manage a year without playing. Two . . . that would be terrible.”
Star search continues
The Knicks have made it through the draft, free agency and the Summer League and remain nearly intact, running it back with the same squad as the group that went to the Eastern Conference semifinals. They signed Donte DiVincenzo to shore up the second unit and signed Jaylin Martin, Trevor Keels and Nathan Knight to two-way contracts but have not gone all in on a star search the way they did last summer — or as most expected this summer.
That may be a combination of the players who have been made available and the price tag. They have inquired about Paul George and Zach LaVine and even reportedly checked in on James Harden. But with a young group still growing together, the Knicks have been hesitant to give up their chips for players who are not the right fit.
That may be frustrating, but it also keeps the pieces in place if the star they want comes on the market — as was hinted this past week when Joel Embiid said he wants to win a championship and let it slip that that could be in Philadelphia or somewhere else. Was he trolling, as he said afterward? Maybe no one knows better than his former agent, current Knicks president Leon Rose.
Rose rarely speaks publicly about his plans. The last time he did was an interview with MSG Network’s Mike Breen on the final day of the disappointing 2021-22 season — 15 months ago. But even then, in the wake of a disappointing season, Rose stuck to his plan.
“Yes. Absolutely. We have to stick to the plan,” he said. “We have to build one block at a time, be patient . . . With regard to opportunities that may come along, we’re very flexible . . . We want to show patience, we want to show prudence in making those decisions and continuing to develop what we have.”
Grimes gets honor
Quentin Grimes was added to the USA Select Team on Friday and will train with that team as it serves as opposition for the Team USA squad headed to the World Cup — which means he’ll be working against teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart.