Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Evan Fournier goes scoreless in Celtics debut vs Pelicans

It had been a wild four days for recently acquired Evan Fournier, who the Celtics traded Jeff Teague and two second-round picks to the Orlando Magic for at the NBA trade deadline.

Following being dealt on Thursday, Fournier flew to Boston for his physical and joined the Celtics on Saturday in Oklahoma City -- only to test positive for COVID-19. He was re-tested and all tests came back negative and was back on a flight to Boston in time to make his debut -- the C's first game in front of fans at TD Garden in over a year on Monday night.

The veteran guard spoke to the media about multiple subsequent tests all coming back negative, prior to the taking the court against New Orleans.
"I'm glad it's over because that was not the best timing for that to happen, me just getting started," Fournier said pregame. "I'm glad it's over."
Fournier was also likely glad his first game as a Celtic is over too after going scoreless in Boston's 115-109 loss to the Pelicans, while shooting 0-of-10 from the floor and 0-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc.

Despite the performance and the Celtics also being without Jaylen Brown (hip), it doesn't seem like Fournier's new teammates are worried much going forward.
"It's difficult, coming to a new team and just trying to play well, trying to remember all of the plays and new system," Kemba Walker said in his postgame presser. "It's not easy. At the end of the day, come on now, we all know how good Evan is. He's going to be great for us. I thought he had great looks, shots that we all know that he can make.

"He's just getting adapted. He's just adjusting. He's definitely going to knock those shots down. Just give him some encouragement, just try to let him know not to think too much, just play the game. We believe in him. He's going to be great for us."
Perhaps it was first game jitters for Fournier, as he was asked by the Boston media about being traded for the first time since the deal happened.
"It's a bit of a shock, because you never know if it's going to happen or not," Fournier said prior to tip-off. "Obviously there are rumors, but when you spend seven years in one place it's a little bit shocking at first. But once it settles in you can reflect on your situation and it's a great opportunity for me."
Still, it seemed like Fournier was excited to play Monday, especially after it seemed he'd be in health and safety protocol for a bit. The former Magic guard was asked how he could help the Celtics in the final stretch run before the playoffs.
"I'm able to do a lot of things," Fournier said. "I can handle, I can pass, you can bring me off screens and pin downs, so it's really going to be about how can I fit with the other guys. I'm obviously learning the system and I’m going to try to be myself but obviously try to adapt to what guys are doing on the floor. We'll see starting tonight."
However, Fournier didn't get off to the start he was anticipating, after his first shot looked good -- a 3-pointer off a curl that hit the back of the rim. His next three shots ended with the same result, including a half-court attempt to end the first quarter.

Fournier just never found his rhythm the rest of the way; air-balling a couple of shots, even one with three minutes left to play and missed a key layup later on during the Celtics' last opportunity to rally back.

Coach Brad Stevens was just as unconcerned as Walker was after the loss with Fournier, who is averaging a career-high in points this season at 19.7 per contest -- going scoreless. Though he may be a good-fit in the long run for the Celtics, Fournier doesn't have the luxury of many practices to get acclimated as quickly as he would like.
"I just walked by his locker and said, 'This is a small blip on your time here,'" Stevens said during his postgame press conference. "Guy gets off the plane, he told you he flew to Oklahoma City, got off the plane, was told he was positive, then had to take a bunch of negative tests in a row. I think it's been a tougher than normal trade for him but I know he's not going to make that excuse. But I have no doubt Evan Fournier is going to score a lot of buckets for the Celtics. So very much a blip. Not worried about it."
Fournier gets another crack to make a good impression when the Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks in the second of a seven game homestand on Wednesday night.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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