MILWAUKEE — His honesty was lost in translation.
Occasionally approached by French journalists on the NBA circuit, George Karl would swear to them that he actually likes Evan Fournier. Then journalists, perhaps skeptical by nature, would point out that the French rookie had played like seven minutes all season. But the Nuggets coach would assure them that he loved Fournier's work ethic and basketball IQ — it's just that there weren't any minutes to play the kid.
Well, with the recent injuries to Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and now Kenneth Faried, Karl has been able to find Fournier some time, and the 20-year-old is playing with the poise of a 30-year-old.
"I'm so happy for him," Karl said. "And we needed what he did (Sunday against Portland). That game was scaring the (heck) out of me, and him stepping up like he's done it 100 times, it was pretty impressive. ... And you got to understand — the kid is a good defender."
Fournier hit a couple of huge 3s in Sunday's fourth quarter, and he had 12 points Monday night at Milwaukee. What's impressive about Fournier is his body control, navigating through traffic with poise.
"I hope he's been complimenting the staff, because the staff has been on him all year long," Karl said. "We've wanted him to play more minutes, but Andre Miller and Corey Brewer have been playing at a high level all year long."
How big has Fournier been lately? So big that I gave him a nickname (now, that's big). Back in 1994, there was a lyricist named Rappin' 4-Tay, who took us behind the velvet rope in his song "Playaz Club." While rapping the song, he's asked by a VIP waitress: "More champagne, Mister 4-Tay?" As such, I've started calling him Evan More Champagne Mister Fournier. The Twitter hashtag #morechampagne has become a thing.
Wait, what? Asked about the dominant Miami Heat, Karl said, "I'm going to tell you, the West is going to win this year."
Karl reiterated that he adores the game of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, as well as the coaching of Erik Spoelstra, but believes a team from the Western Conference will win the title.
High praise. Karl, on his young squad: "From a standpoint of 'coachability,' which I'd like to see more people write about, this team was very coachable. I don't know how many coaches in the league would say that (about their teams). It's a team that likes to be coached, that lets us, and you feel like you're a part of them. So much of the NBA is managing attitudes and the jigsaw puzzle of psychology together, rather than coaching the X's and O's. But this team knows I love basketball and coaching and the passion. I think they feel it."
Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or bhochman @denverpost.com