Knicks’ Evan Fournier off to concerning shooting start

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The Knicks staged a perfect 4-0 preseason, delighting their optimistic fan base. But their highest-paid offseason addition, Evan Fournier, didn’t have a perfect preseason.

Fournier struggled with his 3-point shot and still is attempting to get a feel for his new teammates. The 4-0 record glossed over the fact Fournier shot 35.5 percent — 30 percent from 3-point range — in the four exhibitions.

In the third quarter of the Knicks’ 115-113, buzzer-beating comeback victory Friday over the Wizards, Fournier drove the lane and had a clear path to the rim, but instead sent a hideous back-pass that was intercepted by Washington’s Kyle Kuzma. It led to a fast break hoop.

It was the lowlight of Fournier’s 3-for-8 performance, in which he shot 0-for-4 in the first half. He finished with eight points in 24:13 and was a minus-10.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau admitted Fournier, who signed a four-year deal worth up to $78 million in August, is still finding his way in a new landscape.

The Post reported in early September that Knicks general manager Scott Perry wanted to make a stronger exploration in courting free-agent shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, a former All-Star who wound up in Chicago.

Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier shoots a jump shot for the Knicks
NBAE via Getty Images

“Yeah, yeah, [Fournier’s] too good of a shooter,’’ Thibodeau said of Fournier’s uneven preseason. “I thought Kemba [Walker] also was almost a little too unselfish. When the ball is coming to them, I want them to be who they are. I don’t want them trying to fit in and then they get themselves out of rhythm. I know they’re unselfish players by nature. Just be aggressive. Be who you are. When you have your shots, you take them, and that’s the way I want our whole team to play.”

Fournier and Walker sat out in the fourth quarter as the Knicks embarked on an impressive comeback from 15 points down. Walker was a minus-20 — defense is his cardinal sin. Walker allowed Wizards backup point guard Raul Neto to go off, netting 25 points (10-for-13).

Walker, meanwhile, notched 12 points and six assists in 19:27 but was 1-for-6 from 3-point land.

After the win over Washington, Thibodeau pointed out the starting group — with newcomers Walker and Fournier — is still behind the well-established second unit spearheaded by backup point guard extraordinaire Derrick Rose, who was a plus-20 versus Washington.

“We got in a hole early as a [starting] group,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s a concern. It gives us a lot of things we have to work on. It’s a little choppy with guys in and out. They still got to build their rhythm together. Kemba, Evan, the starters all together … they haven’t played a lot of games together. The second unit is further ahead because they’ve spent a lot of time together.

“Once we get everyone on the same page, we get Nerlens [Noel] back, we’ll have an opportunity to move forward.’’

The starting lineup for opening night Wednesday at the Garden against the Celtics is set — except at center. Noel missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, forcing Taj Gibson into a starting role.

Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier drives to the basket.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Though center Mitchell Robinson, in his return from surgery for a broken foot, played the preseason finale in a reserve role, his conditioning still is off.

The other four starters — Walker, Fournier, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle — are set in stone.

Barrett said the starting lineup needs more time to establish cohesion.

“The second unit played together all year last year,’’ Barrett said. “But everything takes time. We only had four games — three games with Kemba and didn’t have Julius for one. So we really only had two games together. We’re working it out. We’re working through it. But those guys [Walker, Fournier] are so easy to play with. They make the game a lot easier. We had a slow start, but don’t look too much into that.’’

The beauty of team president Leon Rose’s roster construction is the Knicks won’t need to rely heavily on Walker being his electric All-Star self as he comes back from major knee issues last season. Walker won’t have to play major minutes. Derrick Rose’s re-signing, meanwhile, is looking more critical.

Walker missed the game Wednesday against the Pistons to rest his body, with Thibodeau hinting he was nicked up.

“Having both of those guys, Kemba is a terrific player,’’ Thibodeau said Friday. “I was actually excited about him tonight. He missed some shots. But I know one thing about Kemba and what a competitor he is. So I feel good about. He’s still go to shake a little bit of rust off.’’

Indeed, Walker rested much of the offseason to heal. Asked what excited him about the former All-Star from The Bronx, Thibdodeau said: “I saw a little pop — which I liked. Look, I’m not worried about Kemba making shots. I know what he can do.’’



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