Watching Landry Fields’ footwork will never be more interesting than it was Tuesday.
The Raptors introduced their new starting swingman as well as newly-acquired point guard Kyle Lowry at Air Canada Centre.
Fields signed to a three-year-contract the New York Knicks opted not to match was presented with a variety of questions about why his sophomore season paled when compared to his rookie campaign.
In his first year with the Knicks, Fields shot .497 per cent from the field, contributed 6.4 rebounds and 9.7 points a night.
The production fell through the floor last season. Fields scoring dropped to 8.8 points and a .460 shooting percentage. His foul shooting fell from an solid 76 to a miserable 56 per cent. His accuracy from the arc and beyond crashed from .392 to .256.
So what happened?
Well, that would be Carmelo Anthony. In Fields’ rookie year the Knicks were a-run-and-gun, ball distribution bunch under coach Mike D’Antoni. The arrival of Anthony last February meant a redeployment of the offence to maximize his talents and eventually the end of D’Antoni.
“Interesting,” was the word Fields used when asked about the impact of Anthony’s acquisition. For those of you without mothers, interesting is what you say when there isn’t a whole lot of good news to talk about.
“You learn and watch a lot,” Fields said. “You know, dynamics change. He’s a great player. I’m happy for him as a player.”
The NBA is often so riveting because the needs of the individual and the collective are constantly in conflict. You don’t win championships without major figures but you also often lose with them. The Raptors struggles before and after the departure of Chris Bosh provide ample lessons on the pros and cons of a bankable go-to star.
Landry Fields is not a star. He is, however, valuable. Lost in New York, he needed someone to believe that his skill-set, largely lower case, was nonetheless vital. The Raptors trumped the Knicks financially but their bigger appeal was the respect for the often-unsung elements of Fields’ game.
“It takes five (players), Fields said. “If everybody buys into what they need to do and what they need to bring to the table, we can compete with anybody.”
What he will be asked to do in Toronto is what he does best: compete, rebound, defend and contribute offensively. The acquisition of Kyle Lowry and Fields means the Raptors have dramatically improved their ability to defend.
“We’ve got what we feel is an all-around player, capable of playing the two or three and defending multiple positions,” said Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. “It’s a situation that’s very good for our team.”
“I know what I can do and I think the organization knows what I can do,” Fields said. “I’m just trying to build upon those first two years.”
There is still room for more. Colangelo remains on the hunt for an explosive forward. But with a rigid defensive philosophy already instituted under coach Dwane Casey and prize rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross ready to debut, the arrival of Lowry and Fields point to a much more competitive franchise.