Behind the Bench: Orlando’s Evan Fournier Leads the League in Niceness

Comedian and Austin comedy theater founder Chris Trew is a New Orleans Pelicans fan who has a single season ticket directly behind the visitors’ bench inside New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, where he intently listens to and interacts with the opposing team’s players and coaches. He will be documenting his experiences here for us in a regular column called, Behind the Bench. The Pelicans’ opponent in this column: the Orlando Magic, who visited New Orleans on Monday, October 30th.

You can follow his in-game interactions live on Twitter at @ChrisTrew

The Orlando Magic arrive with some swagger in their step, and with good reason. All of the things you’ve read or heard about the most surprising team in the league are true. They are charming, they are talented, and they are coming out the gate strong (despite nobody appearing to be in rhythm with the “Magic on 3! 1, 2, 3, Magic!” chant coming out of timeouts).

All of this on a team without a superstar, even though nearly everything about Aaron Gordon’s body language says he thinks he has already achieved superstar status. He has completely transformed from “wow this league is fun and I can’t wait to figure it all out” to “why am I not getting calls.” He seems to believe he found the fast forward button to skip the seasons between “promising young fella” and “reliable athletic freak.”

Nonetheless, the current version of double zero is convinced he is the man and while he may be (eventually) right, I wouldn’t want to hang out with him at All-Star Weekend. Unless he wanted a rematch in paper, rock, scissors (reminder: I whooped him in New Orleans earlier this year).

Shoutout to the Orlando Magic announce team, which held conversations with several fans in Magic gear en route to their stations behind the microphones for the evening. “Where are you from, how long was the drive here, go Magic,” all of the stuff you’d expect, but there was something extra kind about it. Maybe it’s that Magic fans don’t travel well, so the announcers were pleasantly surprised, or maybe they are just sweet guys and wanted to make new friends. Either way, points to the Orlando Magic announce team.

Bismack Biyombo held the bottom of the net during warmups, so that every made ball was trapped. Nobody seemed enthused about this practical joke, but maybe Biyombo doesn’t care and is just trying to find his place in the world. None of us can fault him for that, this is the most logical practical joke to play when you’re that tall and all of your friends are practicing their jumpers.

Being the New Orleans geek that I am, it was disappointing that Elfrid Payton wasn’t playing, but at least DJ Augustin got some minutes. For the uninitiated, Payton is pretty New Orleans. Dude was on a billboard in the Treme for a while after he was drafted, has a New Orleans Hornets tattoo on this arm, and tweets about the Saints all the time. Both Augustin and Payton glanced around the arena a few times, presumably to check in with the friends and family who texted them about tickets earlier that day.

Fans standing up for the tipoff and not sitting down until after the first basket is scored is a New Orleans tradition. (Note: the Oklahoma City Thunder stole this after the Hornets’ brief post-Katrina stint there.) During the game, several players asked Payton what was up with this and after several scoreless minutes from the Pelicans, Elfrid was getting teased. “Your people’s feet are getting tired, El!” was sad because the Pels were losing, but also pretty funny.

During warmups I asked Evan Fournier what he was going to be for Halloween. A softball of a question, not asking much of the player in the tender pre-game moments. He looked at me and didn’t say a word — code for “not now, maybe later” in my experience.

Towards the end of the game with the results pretty much guaranteed in favor of Orlando, Evan’s eyes began straying from the timeout as they typically do in situations like this. A Pelicans fan behind me is from France, a few blocks from where Evan grew up, and that makes him an Evan Fournier fan first and a Pelicans fan second. This is understandable, as is Evan’s engaging him in the first place. The gentlemen is yelling in French and easily gets Fournier’s attention followed by his jersey.

This, by the way, is extremely true:

See y’all next time.