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Knicks, Evan Fournier Civil War Has No Winner, Even With Inevitable Trade

A reasonable solution lies ahead, but Evan Fournier's vocal exit puts a damper on an otherwise quiet, if not effective, offseason for the New York Knicks.

This NBA offseason has offered little in terms of certainties, assurances, and easy predictions. One truth permeates: Evan Fournier won't play a game for the New York Knicks in 2023-24.

Greater upsets have happened, but it'd certainly be bizarre to see Fournier don blue and orange again. It took less than a month for the French-born sharpshooter to go from opening night starter to de facto healthy scratch, as it wasn't enough that he was exorcised from Tom Thibodeau's nine-man rotation: he was exiled entirely, as even the safest New York blowout rarely afforded him entry. Beyond Jan. 1, Fournier appeared in only 12 games and none of the Knicks' 11 postseason contests.

As the innumerable countdown to a trade continues, Fournier has kept the proceedings lively with increasingly fiery statements. When injuries afforded him a heroic role in a January win over Philadelphia, Fournier compared the experience to the hardwood equivalent of "a one-night stand." Minutes after the Knicks' elimination, he bluntly declared that there was "no way" he'd stay. 

Fournier officially ditched the formalities in a recent interview with Yann Ohnona of L'Equipe, claiming he'd "be shot" if he played another game with the Knicks and was resisting the urge to "spit on everyone." 

If anything, that's added some excitement to an otherwise sleepy offseason for the Knicks, one where dreams of landing an All-Star have mostly given way to indirectly swapping Obi Toppin for Donte DiVincenzo. But, at some point in July, fireworks have to stop, and the Fournier situation is the last thing they need right now. 

Of course, there's a simple solution to the conundrum: trading Fournier. As over-the-top as his comments may be (comparing his Fournier against the world situation to Goku, the protagonists of the Dragon Ball franchise), it's fair for him to press the issue. He turns 31 in October and certainly isn't getting any younger. His three-point prowess should keep him employed in the modern NBA and he's more than capable of checking off that "veteran leadership" box teams treat like gospel.  

San Antonio has been the most popular hypothetical destination, as the suggestion of any French-born veteran heading west to mentor Victor Wembanyama is the Southwest answer to "Knicks go after any former/current CAA/Leon Rose client." 

Fournier, however, made another fair point in his verbal onslaught and napalming of any bridge he had left in Manhattan: if the Knicks really wanted to trade Fournier, keeping glued to the bench no matter the score didn't exactly sing out a ringing endorsement for his services. If Toppin, a top 10 pick still hinting at potential and promise, could only net second-round choices, it's hard to imagine the return on a pure shooter in his 30s being anything headline-grabbing.

The Knicks' final playoff stand perhaps defined it best: no one in their right mind would argue that Fournier's insertion would've changed their fate against the Miami Heat. But wouldn't the holder of the New York record for most successful triples in a single-season been able to help with an effort that was shooting less than 30 percent from deep?

Of course, it's not like Fournier was exactly giving Thibodeau and Co. a reason to put him in: even the most casual Dragon Ball fan knows shooting 33.7 percent from the floor and posting a defensive rating of 116, both career-worsts, is hardly Goku-esque. So acting like Thibodeau was out of his element for exorcising Fournier from the rotation, especially after fans yearned to see Quentin Grimes take on a bigger role, is revisionist history of the most desperate variety. 

Simply put ... who is supposed to be the big winner in this situation? 

Thanks to Jalen Brunson's breakout, the Knicks hold one of the more promising forecasts in the NBA. But they know how quickly good things can vanish, how fleeting such euphoria can be. Look no further than the 2020-21 group that placed fourth in the East during a shortened season: of the 13 players that played at least 30 games that season, only four (RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson) remain. Any follow-up effort has to be made as efficiently and quietly as possible, making the Knicks' relative inactivity almost-refreshing in spite of all the Joel Embiid, James Harden, even resurrected Donovan Mitchell hype.  

But the Fournier situation threatens to put a dent in that fortified core and raise questions about the Knicks: why have they kept Fournier on the roster so long? Why not give him some time to showcase? Who's to say to incoming veterans that the same fate won't befall them if they similarly struggle? What exactly did Fournier expect to happen when his defense suffered and New York had young potential to filter in?

In an ironic twist, most, if not all, of these questions have answers. None of them, alas, are particularly comfortable for any party. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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