By any name, he is cool. A smiling 6-foot-7 charmer with backcourt promise by way of the Denver Nuggets.
And his name alone is two more words than Monsieur Fournier could speak in English when he landed in America two years ago in quest of NBA success. Amazingly, he’s now fluent enough in whatever we speak over here. Besides, who needs anglais when you live in Paris?
Here are two more bon mots celebrating his extended stay in the New World:
That’s what fans on either side of the Atlantic chanted when Fournier connected on long-range shots — for the historic city of Poitier in France’s Pro A League and for the Mile High City’s loyalists. If Evan continues this rapid rise we will all need designated drivers following Magic games this coming year.
”This is a great opportunity, I am very happy to be joining a team that is so young. It is exciting,” gushed Fournier as the 21-year-old guard met les media Tuesday. ”And Nik Vucevic speaks French. It’s actually very good French, too.”
Orlando’s big man in reference, Vucevic, also speaks four other languages and would be great company on a tour of the Louvre — but that perhaps is a conversation for another time.
Meanwhile, our newest addition in the Magic’s summer of transition is a combo guard who has soared in just four seasons of global hoops. Maturing as a teenager, Fournier flew through the the top two tiers of French basketball, twice presented a Most Improved Player award. Then came a couple of chilly winters under head coaches George Karl and Brian Shaw out west in the Rockies as Denver experienced a regime change.
”With George, I handled the basketball,” Fournier said. ”Last year with Brian, I was more of a spot-up shooter. I believe I will be able to play more on the ball here. I did so in France.”
Either a one or a two. Viva la difference.
”And I look forward to running the pick and roll with Aaron Gordon,” grinned Evan. ”It will be Lob City.”
Mais oui! Isn’t fun, fun?
With Fournier in reserve, a conceivable opening night lineup for Orlando bench boss Jacque Vaughn would offer Elfrid Payton at the point and Victor Oladipo at shooting guard, with the zoom-pow of first-round draft pick Gordon and stretch four Tobias Harris flanking Vucevic along the front line.
Since Game 1 last November, general manager Rob Hennigan has bid au revoir to Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson — with Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price likely to follow. Those six players alone represent 58 years of experience.
The Magic’s starting five could sport two rookies and seven combined years in the NBA.
Unlike a fine Bordeaux wine, GMs can’t afford to allow NBA teams to age.
That Fournier was born eight days before Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie debut for Orlando in a victory over Miami in 1992 reminds us all of the wisp of time. The calendar changes quickly.
Teams in the dawn of this new era are expected to jet rim to rim.
Through the years, the Republic of France has gifted to America our treasured Statue of Liberty as well as such capable on-court performers as Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, currently being sized for championship rings in San Antonio. Hennigan and Vaughn bonded through success with the Spurs while Fournier is close with both Parker and Diaw.
”I did a television commercial when I was 12 back home with Diaw,” Fournier said. ”I have known him a long time. We are very close. And Tony called me my rookie year and offered me advice when I first came to this league, on the NBA and other things. He helped me out a lot.”
Fournier, like probable future Hall of Famer Parker along with the invaluable Diaw, all are proud of their National Team success with France. Fournier has opted to return to Paris next week and play for his native land rather than participate in Orlando’s summer league.
After all, the No. 94 on his Denver jersey underscores his love of le tricolore.
”It is the area I come from outside Paris,” explained Evan. ”All the districts are identified by numbers. Mine is 94. I don’t know if I will be able to wear it here. I hope so.”
Allen Iverson, we will remind all, hailed from the 757s. Always thought that would have been a nifty jersey.
First impressions matter and Fournier said all the right things, expounding his goals of ”getting better, win more games, keep growing as a team.” And he looked the part, confident and casual wearing a slick pair of leopard skin shoes — another Orlando Magic first.
There are many layers to this nouveau arrive. His parents, Francois and Merien, both excelled as professional athletes — in judo.
”They could both kick my ass,” Fournier said.
The apple never falls far from the tree. Perhaps Evan Fournier’s arrival will help the Magic start kicking opponents across the parquet court, as they did when Evan was but an infant and Shaq Daddy was just starting out.