Fairy tale beginnings in sports rarely end with happily like they do in the movies.
Over the past two seasons, the New York Knicks were lucky to have had two players in Landry Fields and Jeremy Lin who were unheralded to start their NBA careers, only to steal headlines for extended stretches of time.
However, neither player was able to last in New York and their fairy tale stories came to gloomy, premature endings this month.
Two seasons ago Fields burst into the NBA, starting 81 games as a rookie chosen in the second round. He earned a trip to All-Star weekend to play in the rookie-sophomore game and his mixture of talent and high basketball IQ had him pegged as a key contributor for the Knicks moving forward.
That all changed when the Knicks secured Carmelo Anthony and the dynamics of the team transformed drastically. Instead of a free flowing offence that head coach Mike D’Antoni made famous in Phoenix, the ball would now stick in the hands of Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire.
When the coaching change was made last season that star-centred mentality on New York’s offence became even more prevalent.
“It was… um… interesting,” Fields stammered while laughing nervously after being asked what it was like to play with Anthony. “You learn a lot. You watch a lot. But, um, dynamics change.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement, right?
It’s tough to blame Fields for not buying into standing around on offence while a few of his teammates monopolized the ball. Fields quickly earned the rep during his rookie season as being a guy who would do the intangibles to help his team win. When he wasn’t able to do those things or be a key part of the team, it’s understandable the Knicks and Fields were no longer a great fit for each other.
The chance to be more active on offence was one of the main reasons Fields signed an offer sheet with Toronto this summer.
“I think that was one of the main reasons why the Raptors were so enticing to me,” Fields admitted. “Not only could I come in and defend but the opportunities on offensive are right there. With that (New York) team, the dynamics really changed. In some instances, I wasn’t as comfortable as I felt the year before but now it’s a whole new team, whole new ballgame for me.”
The tricky part for Fields this summer is he was a restricted free agent with two seasons that varied differently. His rookie season saw him garner accolades, while his second season in the NBA saw his field goal percentage dip to 46% and his three-point percentage was an abysmal 25.6%.
Bryan Colangelo and the rest of the Raptors’ front office are confident Fields will return to what he showed in his rookie season.
“I’m pretty certain that that’s the case,” Colangelo boasted to the media earlier this week. “His on-court production in what I’ll call ‘pre-Carmelo Anthony’ was a lot better than ‘post-Carmelo Anthony.’ And that’s not a shot at Carmelo by any means, it’s just that the roster composition was different. The flow of the team’s offence was different and the outlook including a coaching change was different.
“Even if you take, perhaps, a blended rate of the two years, we would consider his wing evaluation or his oncourt evaluation, I think it more than justifies where we ultimately scale in the form of the contract. And we tried to structure the contract in a form that it would make it difficult for New York to match and they didn’t match and we’re happy to have him and we do anticipate very solid things out of Landry.”
Fields was quick to echo those same sentiments.
“With that team the dynamics really changed,” Fields explained. “In some instances I wasn’t as comfortable as I was the year before. But now? I’m on a whole new team and it’s a whole new ball game for me.”
Part of that is the increased confidence that comes from inking a big contract and playing a larger role with the Raptors.
“Confidence is a big thing and I’m happy to have all of that coming back to me right now,” Fields told me. “I think that throughout the summer as it progresses when I go into the season it will be that much higher.”
But, just because his confidence is high, don’t expect Fields to change his game from what made him successful during his rookie season. He will still be the talented player who uses his basketball IQ to make everyone else on the court with him better.
“I think when you understand your worth to the team that makes the game easier for everyone,” Fields explained. “When teams know you do the intangibles that don’t show up in the stat sheet and they bank on you for those certain reasons then stats kind of go out the window. You just want to go out on the court, perform to the best of your ability and help your team win.”
Here’s hoping that Fields is able to get his fairy tale NBA career back on track in Toronto while helping the Raptors win games.
Maybe a fresh start in Toronto is just what Fields needs to rejuvenate his career.