Tom Thibodeau talked ‘trash’ to Evan Fournier after signing with Knicks

Forgive Knicks coach and Connecticut patriot Tom Thibodeau if he wasn’t fully rooting for Evan Fournier the day the shooting guard signed with the Knicks on Aug. 3.

Thibodeau made a joke that day when he spoke to Fournier on the phone when he was in Tokyo. Fournier, who starred on the French National Team, was on a collision course with Team USA in the Olympics. The teams met in the gold medal game with Team USA prevailing over Fournier’s squad.

“When I was on the phone with Leon [Rose, Knicks team president], Thibs, Scott [Perry, GM], the first thing Thibs told me was, ‘As soon as I wrapped up silver, I had to come to New York so we could talk,’ ” Fournier said at a Garden press conference Tuesday. “That was his way of talking a little bit of trash, and unfortunately that’s what happened. But I’m proud of what we accomplished for my country, and the goal is to keep shining for France. In three years we host the Olympics in 2024, so we’ll see.’’

However, first Fournier will become a New Yorker and a Knick. He signed a four-year, $78 million deal after a decent career with Orlando. The 28-year-old swingman was dealt to the Celtics at the trade deadline in March, but his stay in Boston proved brief.

The Knicks officially announced the signing Tuesday as a sign-and-trade with the Celtics, who also gave the Knicks two future second-round picks for cash.

Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“The Garden is my favorite arena,’’ Fournier said. ‘I’ve been saying that for years. I’m not just saying that because I’m a Knick now. I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s a different feeling and a different energy. Being able to play 41 games here and having the fans with us, I can’t wait. I’m extremely excited.”

This press conference was more about welcoming Kemba Walker home, but Fournier gladly shared the stage with the Bronx legend. They were teammates for a few months in Boston, and Walker is happy they are moving to New York together to form the Knicks new starting backcourt.

“Me and Evan, we are two very, very unselfish guys,’’ Walker said. “We’re just going to get the ball moving and find the right shot, play some defense, try to get some stops. I think we’re going to jell super well. I’m super easy to get along with, so is Evan, so it’s going to be fine.’’

During Tuesday’s ceremony, a big screen showed Fournier’s highlights — some from the Olympics. The voice of Garden P.A. announcer Mike Walczewski then boomed, introducing Fournier as a Knick.

Tom Thibodeau and Evan Fournier
Tom Thibodeau and Evan Fournier
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“We identified Evan as a key addition as we entered free agency and are ecstatic he is joining us,’’ Rose said in a statement. “He’s a great teammate, a fierce competitor and a perfect complement to our returning players. He wants to be part of what we’re building here.’’

Knicks brass believes the upgrades of Walker over Elfrid Payton and Fournier over Reggie Bullock will enhance the team, which finished in fourth place in the East at 41-31 last season. Fournier is a more reliable 3-point shooter and shot creator than Bullock.

“The goal is to be better for sure,’’ Fournier said. “But when you start a season, it’s hard to put numbers of wins. I think you have to get the right approach and take it day by day and work to see where you can go. But when you put a number, it can also put on a ceiling [on] what you can accomplish. So I think the mindset is to come in, work and do the best we can and lead by that.”

Fournier’s stock as a free agent may have risen during the Olympics, when he scored 28 points to beat Team USA in a preliminary game.

“My confidence level was good,’’ said Fournier, who averaged 17 points on 41 percent shooting from 3 last season. “It’s really good, actually.’’

The Frenchman said the free-agent process, too, was painless, as his agent presented him with offers while he was in Tokyo.

“It was pretty clear to me New York would be the team for me,’’ Fournier said. “It made it easy for me. I didn’t have to spend much energy. I just could focus on the Olympics.’’

New York Post

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