His situation with the Knicks, Victor Vembanyama, the tricolor … Big interview with Evan Fournier
Warriors vs. at Chase Center. The Knicks game is an hour away. Evan Fournier exits the tunnel that leads him to the ground. The captain of the French team repeats his radii with the help of an assistant coach for fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, those are the only minutes he will spend on the floor for the Warriors. For the third straight time, he’ll stay in tracksuits on the bench to cheer on his teammates, who will be down ten points in a game in which they finished 9 of 34 on 3-pointers.
Basket USA caught up with him in the locker room to discuss his new situation, as well as thoughts on Victor Wembanyama and Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum’s comments about the young Frenchman in the NBA.
Evan, you went from starter to reliever after seven games and out of the rotation after six games. Tonight is your third game without playing, how are you experiencing and handling this new situation?
Listen, I’m going through this… I’m not happy, but what can I do? I can’t do much in real life (shrugs)… So I stay professional, do what I have to do and try to be ready, that’s it. We remain patient.
When you say you’re staying professional, how do you find the right balance between being a good teammate and being a good veteran while maintaining the desire to return to the rotation at the expense of certain teammates?
When I say stay professional, it means doing what I need to do to be prepared. Of course, you have to remain a good teammate, but it’s not because I’m told that I’m not in the rotation for the moment that I’m definitely going to slack off, stop eating, go out… I’m trying. to stand ready. You see, tomorrow the others will “extinguish”. Me, I’m going to work out, I’m going to do cardio, I’m going to do bodybuilding. When I say professional, it is. Prepare myself in case the coach needs me.
“I’ve just turned 30, I’m in my best years, I’m in great shape, so… I have to play.”
Here’s a look at the first seven games. There’s the arrival of Jalen Brunson, who has to have the ball in his hands, you have RJ Barrett as the secondary creator, and you have Julius Randle who has to serve… Sure, your role changes, but you were 39% 3’s. -The indicators in these seven games… Of course, there were other problems, but are you surprised that the coach did not give more time to this new starting five?
My role has already changed since last year. I was more of a shooter than in previous years, which wasn’t my game in the past. But I still managed to adapt well, I think. Yes, it’s true, we didn’t have much time to test these five bases… Especially since 3 wins, 4 losses and as you said, I was 40%. In fact, I found nothing to worry about. Then… it’s his choice, the coach’s choice (shrugs). I don’t really have much to say… You’ll have to ask him. Then, when you look at the minutes of the first seven games, you can still see that I played very little. I was down to five, but I didn’t play much… So it’s true that it might suggest a change in the future. Then it all happened very quickly: I was out of the rotation in the fifth game in the seventh game, then in the thirteenth game… That’s right… it happened very fast.
Are there discussions between you and the coach or between your agents and the Knicks front office regarding this decision by the coach?
I don’t know… I don’t know. But from a personal point of view, it doesn’t interest me, at least not immediately. After that, if nothing changes in a month, and it depends on what the team does… But if nothing changes in a month, I’ll start asking myself questions. For now, I try to focus on what I have to do…. I just turned 30, I’m in my prime, I’m in great shape, so… I have to play.
“Moving now means I won’t see my family for a few months, I won’t see my new son…”
We imagine it’s too early to talk about a transfer or a transfer request, but is it something that’s already on your mind?
Like I told you, I’m not thinking about it yet. I really advocate patience. A lot can change in 82 games. I hope it doesn’t happen (note: knock on wood), but there could be injuries, there could be transfers. You never know what could happen. To be completely transparent, I have a wife who is pregnant and due in February, so moving me means I won’t see my family for a few months, I won’t see my new son. I’m at a point in my career where it’s difficult and I don’t necessarily want to go through that… So it’s a complicated situation on a family level as well. So now let’s be patient and see.
Let’s move on to another topic, with the discovery of Victor Vembanyama by the Americans. What impresses you more about him: his game or how he handles all the hype at such a young age?
To me, it’s not necessarily his game… Finally… Obviously, his game is impressive, but personally what surprises me the most about Victor is his attitude towards all of this, how he carries himself… I don’t want to say that it’s a form of maturity, but he is confident. He is sure of himself, sure of his strength. He knows where he wants to go. Really, kid, he’s really square. And it’s really rare. He is very, very wise for his age. I can’t wait to rub shoulders with him on the French team, see how he handles himself, explore the guy a little bit and see him make his NBA debut. Because as a French you have to root for him and hope he shakes things up! He is a very good hope for French basketball.
“In France we are on a slope, it is quite worrying”
On French youth, Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum recently said that French youth should stay longer in France or Europe before going to the NBA because they are not ready. What is your opinion on the matter?
Of course they are right! For me, there’s a deeper problem than that, which is the way we approach youth basketball in France right now. This is also felt in the French youth teams, whether under-18s or under-17s… More and more, you get the impression that the French youth teams are “showcase” and that competitive side, less enthusiasm. There was a desire to win, to share earlier. I think there has been a change for a few years now and it shows.
How does this change happen?
Guys do anything to get drafted, they only think about the NBA. In fact…you get the impression that basketball is less important than the love of basketball, the love of the ball, and the game (it stops). bigger, social networks, recognition, etc. I think we are on a slope in France, which is quite worrying. And of course, because the guys think about it more and more, they leave sooner and later without proving themselves in France or the professional world. It’s a big problem, frankly, a really big problem.
If we look at the careers of these young footballers, if we take Killian Hayes as an example, most of them still spend two or three years in France or Europe. You did a similar trip, doing one year in Nanterre and two years in Poitiers…
I’ve spent three years with professionals, but don’t be confused… It’s not a matter of time. We all have different trajectories, but what is needed is to be productive: you must be productive! Because now the NBA has a different view of Europe. In the past, Europeans were only recruited when they performed well in their respective leagues. Now, as for Americans, they are betting more and more on potential. So now guys are getting picked higher and higher in the Draft, which wasn’t the case before, they haven’t really proven themselves. For me, this is wrong.
How is this wrong?
Because you are unarmed when you come! Since you are trained at a high level, you will play at the beginning. Besides, if you don’t perform well and show enough in the first two years, the third year is gone, you’re a substitute. The fourth year is the same. And from the moment you sign your second contract, your role will be the same as the previous year and will not change. That is, we will sign you saying to ourselves: “Well, he is the 8th, 10th man…”. Then, moving up the hierarchy, hoping to be a starter and get a lot of playing time is very complicated. That’s why you need to be efficient… I often follow the example of Niko Batum. When Nico hits everything right after the Hoop Summit and he’s expected to be fifth in all the mock drafts. Except Nico, he knew. He warned, said that he was not ready, that he would leave the season with 6-7 points at Le Mans… He said that he had to continue his apprenticeship, etc. In the end he was 27th when he was able to break into the top 5, but boy was he more armed! He was more prepared and we know Nico’s career.
“Young people don’t understand what it takes to have a ten-year career in the NBA… It’s very difficult. They don’t understand”
Yes, but he had duties with Vincent Collet at Le Mans at the age of 18-19… There are few Americans in front of the young talent in Betclic Elite today and he may not have the opportunity to be responsible. the same way…
Of course, but Nico had his responsibilities in his second year. In his first year as a pro, he played, but was not the team’s main player. Upon his return the following year, he was dominant, one of the most important players on his team. It’s unthinkable for me to get drafted and try to make your mark in the NBA when you’re not a dominant player on your team in France. This is simply not possible! If you can’t do that at some point, the NBA just isn’t for you…that’s it. It’s just that the top level is not for you, and maybe you’ll get there later, when you’re 23-24, after you’ve made your mark in Europe… so you’re beating yourself up. After spending four years without playing… And not playing for that long is hard, very hard.
Doesn’t the problem come from comparing this new generation to Tony Parker, Nico Batum, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert and you… the illusion that winning in the NBA is easy?
This completes what I said before… I mean now I often see kids coming in who are not ready to burn. They are not ready. They are attracted by basketball more than what comes with the NBA. I will take myself as an example… I slept in the hall, I lived in the hall. It was the only thing that mattered in my life. Basketball, basketball, basketball, basketball! Tell me, I gotta crack Denver, you’re on fire, you’re on fire. I don’t count my family anymore. My parents complained because I never responded to them, but in my mind I was in survival mode. And I see that they are very quiet now. Frankly, I find them very quiet. Not all of them, of course. I admit there are some that are quite square, but overall they are very quiet. They don’t understand what it takes to have a ten-year career in the NBA… It’s very difficult. They don’t understand.
Interview in San Francisco.