Fournier Happy NBA Game Was Played in France

by John Denton

ORLANDO – While Evan Fournier’s complete focus was on the Orlando Magic’s game against the Boston Celtics on Friday, the guard did allow himself a couple of minutes earlier in the day to take a brief peek at the Milwaukee Bucks game against the Charlotte Hornets.

That game was significant because it was the first regular-season game in NBA history to be played in France. Fournier, a native of suburban Paris, grew up just 2 miles away from AccorHotels Arena, site of the NBA Paris Game 2020 between the Bucks and Hornets.

``It’s cool, man, it’s cool. It’s been a while since French people have been able to see an NBA game (live),’’ said Fournier, whose first number in the NBA (94) was to denote the district he grew up in just outside of Paris. ``I hope that it’s going to be a great event and I hope to play in it one day. Everyone is trying to (get into) that game. I’m not joking when I say I’ve had hundreds of people asking me for tickets or sales on tickets. The French love basketball and (playing the game in Paris) that’s so much better than just playing the game in London.’’

Fournier is one of 108 international players from 38 countries and territories who were on Opening Night NBA rosters this season, marking the sixth consecutive year that there were at least 100 international players on NBA rosters. France has the third most international players in the NBA with eight, trailing only Canada (13) and Australia (nine). The success of French legends, such as Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, and the current crop of French players in the NBA has greatly broadened the league’s influence into France, Fournier said.

``If you look at it, it’s just easier to watch games now with social media and league pass,’’ said Fournier, who used to watch NBA-related DVDs while growing up as a child. ``There are more games on TV (in France) and games on Sundays are earlier. Access is easier, so of course there are more people that are watching. Also, the fact that (France) has more and more (NBA) players, so more people are starting to have more interest in it.’’

TACKO TIME: Tacko Fall, who became something of a national sensation last spring when he led UCF to its first NCAA Tournament victory in school history, returned to the Amway Center on Friday night with the Boston Celtics. Fall, a 7-foot-5, 311-pound center, is on a two-way contract with the Celtics, meaning he has split his time this season between Boston and the Maine Red Claws of the G League.

Fall, who was one of the first Celtics players out on the Amway Center court on Friday afternoon for drill work, came into Friday having appeared in four NBA games this season and has averaged 4.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 5.3 minutes a night. He’s been something of a star at the G League level with the Maine Red Claws, averaging 13.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.

Last season, while starring at UCF, Fall was a regular at Magic games because of his desires to someday play in the NBA and because of his friendship with Orlando center Mo Bamba. The two of them still keep in contact now that both are playing professionally.

``Every now and then, I’ll hit him up, call him or text him and check on him and make sure he’s doing all right up there in cold Boston,’’ joked Bamba, who has known Fall for several years. ``He’s just a really good guy and his character speaks loudly for the type of person that he is. (Fans reaction to the center) is kind of expected … everyone loves Tacko. Not only is he a big person, but he really does have a big personality. He’s a good guy.’’

NO THIRD POINT GUARD: Like in three previous games, Orlando went into Friday with just two healthy point guards on the roster. Not an ideal situation, Magic head coach Steve Clifford noted, but an improvement over last week when the Magic had no other healthy guards behind starter Markelle Fultz.

The Magic’s depth at point guard is complicated by the knee injury to veteran D.J. Augustin, who was diagnosed last week with ``bone irritation’’ in his left knee and is expected to miss three-to-four weeks of action.

The Magic did get a lift in recent days with the return of Michael Carter-Williams, who returned last Saturday after missing 13 straight games with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. Carter-Williams played his best game of the season on Wednesday against Oklahoma City when he scored 15 points, handed out three assists and grabbed two rebounds.

``He was great. He helps us at both ends of the floor, he’s an elite defender and he brings an edge to our team that helps our team a great deal,’’ Clifford said. ``The other night, he lived at the basket because his penetration was terrific.’’

UP NEXT: The Magic are scheduled to hold a light practice on Saturday before hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night. That game is actually the beginning of a rather difficult back-to-back as the Magic will play the rival Miami Heat in South Florida on Monday night.

As for the Clippers, they thumped Orlando 122-95 last week in Los Angeles when the obviously weary Magic were playing on the second night of a back-to-back set of games. The Clippers have given the Magic fits for years and will come into Sunday’s game with a 12-game winning streak over Orlando. The Magic last beat the Clippers on Nov. 6 of 2013.

Sunday’s game will the fifth and final of a 10-day road trip for the Clippers. L.A. opened the trip with wins over New Orleans and Dallas, but it rested most of its front-line players in Wednesday’s loss in Dallas. The Clippers play the Heat in South Florida on Friday prior to facing the Magic in Orlando on Sunday. Tip off for Sunday’s game is 6 p.m.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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