The Knicks entered last night winners of nine of 10 thanks to unlikely help from players such as rookie guard Landry Fields.
The Stanford product was recently named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month after posting numbers (55 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds per game) that not even his head coach thought possible after drafting him in the second round.
“We had high hopes after the summer league, but not necessarily when we drafted him in the second round,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “But then we had the summer league, and the coaches said I’d have a hard time keeping him off the floor.
“He’s efficient. He gets like 13 points a game on only six or seven shots. He gets the loose balls, steals and putbacks. He’s a guy that’s so poised so early in his career.”
Fields was surprisingly inserted into the starting lineup for the home opener and hasn’t looked back. His maiden month featured numbers that are not only the best amongst fellow rookies but against the entire league at his position. Fields has accrued 11.1 points per game [third among rookies], 55 percent field goal percentage [second], 76 percent free throws [third], 7.2 rebounds per game [second among rookies, first among all NBA guards], in 29.9 minutes per game [third].
D’Antoni said what’s really impressed him about Fields’ opening month was that he never seemed overwhelmed. He praised his basketball IQ and added that Fields wasn’t just a top rookie but a top player overall.
“He deserved the honor,” D’Antoni said. “He’s not only been one of the best rooks in the month but one of the better players of the month.”
Fields, whose youth belies his maturity, took the award in stride but said he wants to remain focused on team goals.
“It’s a great honor but I still have a lot of work to do. I don’t want to get too caught up in it, though,” he said.
When he was selected with the 39th pick, many originally thought Fields was just brought in to be another practice body and perhaps a solid bench contributor down the line. But with the lingering injury to Kelenna Azubuike, who was expected to start at shooting guard, Fields took advantage of the extra reps in practice and in the summer league. Before he knew it, the 6-foot-7 swingman was starting and defending the likes of Portland Trailblazers’ all-star Brandon Roy in the Knicks’ home opener.
Fields said he never – publicly -- took it to heart that he was passed up so many times. But added he was happy where he finally landed.
“I wanted to thank my teammates and coaching staff but especially [team president] Mr. [Donnie] Walsh for believing in me and giving me the opportunity,” said Fields.
Despite being the Pac-10 Player of the Year, Fields was passed up by every team at least once. He said he’s not taking names and kicking butts later but added it is nice to see his hard work pay off for him.
“Not really, not anymore,” he said when asked if he keeps track of the 38 other players drafted ahead of him. “What motivates me now is this team and trying to win games. What happened then was out of my control but I’m happy to be where I’m at.”
Last season’s Knick rookie, Toney Douglas, said he’s most impressed with Field’s poise and maturity. Also a four-year player during his time at Florida State, Douglas said something is to be said for players being drafted practically NBA-ready made.
“He’s a smart player, obviously going to Stanford. He just has a good basketball IQ,” said Douglas, adding that Fields has almost been every bit as important as his more famous teammates. “He’s been doing real well. He does a lot of the little things [like] rebounding, steals, [getting] loose balls, putbacks. And that stuff counts and changes the momentum of a game.”
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