Understandably lost in the Jeremy Lin buzz last week was the fact that the Knicks quietly let Landry Fields walk to the Toronto Raptors. Though it didn’t cause nearly as much controversy as the Lin decision (Lindecision!) – the Knicks weren’t expected to match Fields’s three-year/$18-million offer sheet – it was yet another example of the Knicks failing to retain young, home-grown talent.
After nearly a season-and-a-half’s worth of struggling, it’s easy to forget that Fields was once labeled as untouchable in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and considered the Knicks’ best young player. Fields stormed out of the gate his rookie season after being selected 39th overall in the 2010 draft. A surprise, considering he wasn’t even invited to the rookie combine months before. After a strong Summer League and training camp, Fields earned the starting two-guard position from Mike D’Antoni, another surprise considering the coach’s penchant for preferring not to play rookies.
But Fields deserved it.
In the first four months of his rookie season, Fields fit comfortably in D’Antoni’s uptempo offense. Fields thrived off clever backdoor cuts, while defenses keyed in on the pick-and-roll tandem of Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, and the outside shooting of Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Likewise, because of D’Antoni’s tendency for small lineups, Fields had more of an opportunity to be productive on the glass. His smooth, aggressive style won the MSG crowd over quickly – dunks, putbacks (great putbacks), hustle, and a knack for big games. He was named Rookie of the Month in consecutive months in 2010.
However, when the Knicks acquired Anthony and shipped off the style of play that suited Fields so well, it seemed Landry got lost in the mix. He struggled mightily as the season wound down, and into the playoffs, where he put up an abysmal 1.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 20%FG in a four-game sweep to the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, his sophomore season mostly resembled the lowly latter half of his rookie season.
Fields came in to his second year boasting a bigger, more muscular frame, and poorly (oddly) re-worked jump-shot. While in his rookie season, Fields shot 39% from beyond the arc (not a number that should call for change), he could never find the range this past season, shooting at just a 26% clip. His lack of a reliable jumper often betrayed his offense, as defenses sagged off him and forced him to work off the dribble – not Fields’ strongest asset.
Fields’ rebounding also declined from 6.4 per game his rookie year (tops among all guards in the NBA), to 4.2 his sophomore year. In general, Fields seemed ill-equipped to play with Tyson Chandler, a big man who does most of the work on the glass and clogs the paint on offense, and Carmelo Anthony’s isolation-heavy offense. The only real time Fields thrived this previous season was during Jeremy Lin’s breakout, where the two found natural chemistry, and the pace quickened on offense, based on the pick-and-roll with Lin and Chandler (and Stoudemire), and the outside shooting of Steve Novak. When Anthony returned to the team, Fields struggled yet again.
Still, despite a small, two-season sample size, there really is no verdict as to what type of player Fields could be. He undoubtedly filled a need on the team as an athletic finisher on the break, and someone that could fill the Knicks’ current void on the wings, as a two-guard or small forward. Also, despite Fields’s regression in shooting and rebounding, he became more productive as a passer, boosting his assists per game, and he also proved to be one of the more reliable defenders on the team.
Perhaps one the best qualities of Fields is his easy-going nature, whether it was trying to sell his own jersey at Modell’s, taking us behind the scenes at media day, or singing remixes of pop songs. Fields always demonstrated a self-awareness rarely seen in basketball players, and seemed to recognize that playing basketball should be fun. If nothing else, a locker-room can never have too many well-to-do individuals like Fields. Not to mention, talented individuals.
Would Fields have fit a need if he returned to these Knicks? Absolutely. Would it have been his best fit? Probably not. Fields will likely do well with the Toronto Raptors with two talented passers in Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon, and especially with a big like Andrea Bargnani, who spreads the floor on offense, but it’s a shame to see another young, talented Knicks player leave for nothing, especially when we don’t really have a grip as to how good he can really be.