Intensity and Consistency Very Important Words to Evan Fournier

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By John Denton

March 14, 2016

ORLANDO – There are times during games, maybe in tough stretches for the Orlando Magic or when he is feeling winded or frustrated, guard Evan Fournier will glance down, catch a glimpse of the ink splattered across the insides of his wrists and use that visual for motivation.

Intensité is tattooed on the left wrist in stylish script, while Régularité is on the inside of his shooting wrist. A nod to Fournier’s Parisian roots, the French motivational words mean ``intensity’’ and ``consistency’’ – two ideas drilled into his psyche from the time he was a kid who had sports-minded parents who were world-class JUDO fighters.

These days, even as the Magic have struggled finding consistency and intensity from game to game, those ideas drive the 23-year-old Fournier to push himself harder to get the most out of his deep and diverse talent base.

``I feel like that’s one of my problems; I feel like I’m not consistent enough,’’ Fournier candidly admitted recently. ``I wish I could be as consistent as I am during my great games every night. It’s not easy playing 82 games, but I’m definitely getting better at it. I have these tattoos in French because being (consistent) and (intense) are, I think, two of the most important things.’’

Fournier’s shooting numbers – many of them the best he’s ever posted in his four-year NBA career – say that he’s among the league’s most consistent shooters.

For the season, the 6-foot-7 guard is connecting on 45.3 percent of his field goals, 40.1 percent of his 3-point shots and 82.7 percent of his free throws. To put that into perspective, the only other players in the NBA to shoot at least 45 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line are: Golden State ``Splash Brothers’’ Stephen Curry (51.1, 46 and 90.5 percent) and Klay Thompson (46.9, 41.2 and 86.5 percent), San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (50.7, 46.5 and 88.2 percent), former Magic guard and current L.A. Clippers standout J.J. Redick (47.5, 47.8 and 87.9 percent) and New York’s Jose Calderon (46.2, 40.1 and 90.5 percent). Portland’s C.J. McCollum (44.6, 41.1 and 83.1 percent) and Chicago’s Doug McDermott (44.2, 41.1 and 85.1 percent) just missed out on joining Fournier and others in the rarified 45-40-80 percent club.

Add in the fact that Fournier is averaging career highs in points (14.5), assists (2.8), rebounds (2.9) and minutes (32) and it’s easy to see why the 23-year-old guard is quickly maturing into an elite-level player.

``I feel like Evan, the whole season, has been really consistent, if not our most consistent player,’’ Magic coach Scott Skiles said. ``You know that you can count on him playing pretty good individual defense and most nights he’s going to knock down shots and score it in some sort of way. I think he’s been really consistent for us.’’

The Magic (28-37) need all the firepower and consistency that they can get now as they head down the final stretch of the regular season. Orlando was without center Nikola Vucevic (right groin strain) and point guard Elfrid Payton (right elbow sprain) again in practice on Monday and their availability is in doubt on Tuesday when it hosts the scrappy Denver Nuggets.

The Magic won on Friday in Sacramento – when Fournier was at his do-everything best with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists – but they lost badly a night later in Portland – when Fournier contributed 15 points, four rebounds and two assists in limited minutes. Consistency has been a huge sticking point for the Magic as their last six victories have been followed up by losses. Often, those consistency issues have shown up within the same 24 hours as Orlando is just 2-7 on the second night of back-to-back sets of games since Jan. 1.

``That (consistency) is what the great teams are all about; you know that night-in and night-out they are going to play the same way, they’re going to play hard and they’re not going to do the same mistakes,’’ Fournier said. ``That’s why they are great and that’s what we need to continue to work on.’’

Fournier’s play has come on of late as he’s averaged 16.3 points in the Magic’s last 10 games and he’s scoring 17.2 points per game in March’s five games so far. He started the season carrying the team with a stellar November (17.8 ppg., 46.2 percent from the floor and 41.6 3-point percentage), but it dipped a bit in December (11.6 ppg., 43.2 percent from the floor and 39.4 3-point percentage) and January (12.2 ppg., 43.3 percent from the floor and 38.2 3-point percentage).

Orlando’s trading of Tobias Harris in mid-February opened up some more opportunities for Fournier, even though it has meant that he’s had to play more at small forward than shooting guard. There’s basically no difference on offense, but defensively he has been asked to guard bigger and stronger players and he’s done so willingly. His February (15.8 ppg., 48.8 percent from the floor and 47.2 3-point percentage) and March (17.2 ppg., 50 percent from the floor and 36.4 3-point percentage) numbers have been the model of efficiency.

Even though he grew up half a world away in France, Fornier is a student of the game and has voraciously studied some of the NBA’s all-time greats. He grew up a huge fan of the Sacramento Kings because of that squad’s huge European influence, and he wears No. 10 today because of his love for former Kings’ guard Mike Bibby, a high-efficiency shooter during his playing days.

Intensity and consistency, or intensité and régularité as the wrist tattoos read, are the next steps for Fournier to become a truly elite player, he said.

``That’s basically what my parents taught me throughout my childhood, being intense and consistent. In my opinion, those are the hardest things to do in the NBA,’’ Fournier said. ``That’s why guys like (Kevin Durant), Michael (Jordan) and Kobe (Bryant) are so good because every night they are great. It doesn’t matter if they are sick, tired or hurt; they still make it happen every night.’’