CHARLOTTE – New Knicks starting shooting guard Evan Fournier agreed with Tom Thibodeau’s stunning benching of the starters for the final 14 minutes of a disheartening 112-100 loss to Milwaukee Wednesday.
But Fournier and RJ Barrett don’t exactly agree with Thibodeau’s basic salty post-game premise that the excuse of getting to know each other is wearing thin. Two starters, the Guards, were available to press following the morning shootaround in a Charlotte recreation center. They will face the Hornets on Friday night.
“How did it feel?,’’ Fournier said of the quintet being benched. “The (bench) guys were playing well. It is obvious that you want to be there. But we had no business being on the court.’’
Thibodeau’s salty and pointed remarks that ended his press conference Wednesday night were so profane that team-operated MSG Network cut it from its post-game show when it normally shows his entire presser.
That didn’t stop Thibodeau from making headlines.
“When it’s 10 games, you say we need 20,” the coach said angrily of his team learning to play together. “When it’s 20, you say 30, When it’s 30, you say it’s 40. Before you know it, the season’s over. It’s a bunch of bull—t.”
Barrett and Fournier disagree.
“Everything takes time – any new team,’’ Barrett said. “No one’s going to have it right away off the bat. It’s a process that takes time. We’re trying to figure out who we are if we’re going to be consistent.
“I think this whole team. Even though we were together last year, the guys that were here, we’re still learning each other, so we’re gonna keep growing, improving.’’
Fournier, starting point guard Kemba Walker and starting center Mitchell Robinson are both new members of the team. Robinson also missed three months last year with a broken foot.
Through the 12 first games, each starting player is a plus: Walker (minus-43), Barrett(minus-28), Julius Randle (+26), Fournier (minus-25) are all team worsts.
The Knicks currently sit at 7-5 thanks to their bench. Last season, the Knicks were 24 behind vs. Milwaukee. However, their second unit rallied to tie the score at the end of the fourth quarter. Thibodeau did not allow any of his five starters to return as the game was losing.
Asked if the starters are still feeling each other out Fournier said, “Yeah, I mean obviously. We haven’t been playing good together lately. We did it early, which is a good thing. So we know we’re capable of playing together. That’s the positive thing. It’s up to us to get there. Hopefully tonight.’’
Fournier senses the offensive flow is “very stagnant.’’
“Ball movement, body movement,’’ he said. “We have to find that rhythm that we had early on – those first five games of the season. Just make sure that we all share the ball. It is common to just pass the ball, and then the rhythm will return. You get better shots when you have everyone touch the ball. Then we feel great. I think that’s the main thing going forward.’’
Signed to a $78 million deal over four years, Fournier hasn’t yet lived up to being a rock at shooting guard and the defense has suffered. Fournier is averaging 13.8 points, shooting just 41.7 percent overall, with a respectable-but-hardly-glowing 36 percent from 3.
“I think it’s a perfect reflection of our starting unit,’’ Fournier said of his first season in New York. “We started really well, shooting the ball well, sharing the ball, et cetera. Now it’s not as good. So are we playing not as well because we are missing shots or are we missing shots because we aren’t sharing the ball.’’