When they acquired him from the Denver Nuggets on Draft night, the Orlando Magic knew that Evan Fournier could shoot it. What they perhaps didn't know quite as well: he can handle the ball as well. He's eager to do so when he makes his Magic début in the 2014/15 season.
"I was more of a stationary shooter [in Denver]," Fournier said Monday as the met with the Orlando media for the first time. "I look forward to handling the ball a lot more in Orlando. That's what I used to do in France and that's what I'm very good at. [...] I'm going to be able to show everyone what I can do with the ball." The 21-year-old wants to play more of an "initiator, creator" role offensively with the Magic.
Fournier welcomes the pressure that comes with an increased role. "I'm a guy who loves responsibilities," Fournier told Orlando Pinstriped Post. "I've been in the starting five my whole career, so I just love being in the starting five. I love having the pressure on my shoulders."
He also relishes the opportunity to play, period, which opportunities were scarce in Denver. Off the top of his head, Fournier knew how many games he played 30-plus minutes (13) and his scoring average in those contests (18.6, though OPP research indicates it's actually 17.8, but he's remarkably close), which knowledge attests to his drive and eagerness to demonstrate his abilities. Asked why he didn't get many chances to play heavy minutes in Denver, Fournier said, "That's a good question." After considering it, he explained that coaches prefer to play "old guys," and that he appreciates that having to sit sometimes "helped me to be a better player."
Since the trade, Fournier has spoken with Magic players Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Nik Vučević. He and Vučević spoke in French, which tongue Vučević learned growing up in Belgium. Fournier also dined with Magic general manager Rob Hennigan on Monday night.
"It was not official," said Fournier of his dinner with Hennigan. "We did not talk about basketball. It was more about [getting] to know each other." He looks forward to speaking with Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn regarding his role in the days ahead.
Fournier only recently joined the team, but he's familiar with its rebuilding plan and realistic about what its means in terms of wins and losses. "I think the project in Orlando is [to] have a bunch of young guys and just bring the city and the franchise to the top level. Hopefully that's what we're going to do."
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Though Fournier has just two years of NBA experience, he has he mentality and approach of a veteran, another plus for the Magic, who have jettisoned Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, two respected leaders from their locker-room, in recent days. "I've been a pro since I was 16 years old, so [I can bring] experience [to Orlando]. I've experienced a lot of big games in Europe." He also cited leadership as another quality he brings to the City Beautiful
As the son of two judo champions, Fournier as a youth strove to maximize his potential. "I always grew up in an ambitious way," he said. "Since Day One, I wanted to be in the best league." And he ultimately made it there, arriving in Denver as the 20th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Fournier took a long road to the NBA, playing one season with JSF Nanterre and two others for Poitiers Basket 86. After each of his two Poitiers seasons, Fournier won the Rising Star Award, an LNB Pro A honor roughly analogous to the NBA's Most Improved Player.
Not bad for a guy who didn't even make basketball his first choice.
Indeed, Fournier took up hoops at age eight, but only after the local fútbol club turned him down due to a lack of space. Its loss is ultimately the NBA's, and the Magic's, gain.