by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7
This past weekend, three randomly selected grand-prize winners were invited to New York City to partake in the NBA Hoop Troop Shot Clock Shopping Spree. The nationwide sweepstakes contestants were each given 24 seconds to shoot as much NBA merchandise as they could into an oversized basketball hoop. Along to help them with their jumpers was New York Knicks shooting guard Landry Fields.
Although Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were under extreme pressure of carrying a Knicks team whose fans were starving for some postseason success after years of disappointments, it was Fields who may have been given the toughest assignment. The team asked an NBA rookie to start in the playoffs and figure out a way of stopping veterans like Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, while also contributing on the offense end — following the injuries of Chauncey Billups and Stoudemire.
The former Stanford standout was one of the most impressive rookies of the season. There was even a point when many considered him a serious contender for Rookie of the Year along with Blake Griffin.
After getting selected with the 39th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Fields wasted little time in earning his stripes at the next level. Following a strong performance throughout summer league and during the preseason, the 6-7 wing landed the starting shooting guard job. His game seemed to have transitioned to the League smoothly from the start. He was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November after averaging 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, while shooting 54.4 percent from the floor. The following month, Fields was once again selected as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month after ranking second in scoring among rookies with 8.8 points per game, third in rebounding with 7.9 a night, and leading all rookies in steals with 1.23 per game. Even halfway through the season, when the Knicks’ mega-trade shook up the roster, Fields retained his starting gig and his stats didn’t really seemed to have taken too much of a hit.
But as the season winded down and the playoffs arrived, it became obvious that number six in a Knick uniform wasn’t the same player we had become accustomed to watching all season long. During the playoffs, Fields’ stats plummeted to 1.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. And many were left to wonder what exactly caused the late downturn.
However, it’s growing pains like that of what Fields experienced at the end of the season that will allow for him to return next season as an even better player. It is that series against Boston that will mold him into the fierce competitor and dangerous two-guard he has the potential of evolving into.
While at the NBA Hoop Troop Shot Clock Shooting Spree in Herald Square’s Foot Locker, SLAM caught up with Fields and discussed last season’s happenings, offseason moves, and looking ahead to next season, among many other things.
SLAM: Looking back, how would you describe and sum up you rookie season?
Landry Fields: It was definitely a year that wasn’t expected from me. It was a great first year. I learned a lot – especially towards the playoffs. That’s when I learned a lot about myself and a lot about this league. So I think it was a great experience this first year.
SLAM: What was the experience like of starting and having to play such a major role?
LF: Oh man. I was a little bit nervous at first but after a few games I just kinda’ got comfortable with it all. Just kind of progressed as the season went on.
SLAM: What are you looking to work on this summer to enhance your game?
LF: My whole thing with this summer is obviously pretty much working on everything, but also the whole mental approach. I think in the NBA, the most mentally tough guys are the best ones. So if I can get that approach going right now into next season, it will be a lot better for me.
SLAM: When your production slowed down towards the end of the season, some pointed at the offense change after Carmelo arrived while others said you may have hit the rookie wall. What do you think looking back now?
LF: I mean, my offense did change but that’s not an excuse to say my game was bad. I think I needed to be a bit more aggressive. I kinda’ deferred a little bit to other guys. And also, with that long season I did get a little mentally drained. But it was great for me to go through that because now I know what to expect for next season.
SLAM: Talking about next season, how far do you think the Knicks can go?
LF: I hope we go all the way. We played the NBA Finals teams great… well actually Dallas did beat us – but with Miami, we got a great shot at coming out of the east.
SLAM: How concerned are you about a lockout?
LF: It will probably happen. You just kind of have to roll with it. It’s out of my control anyways.
SLAM: What areas do you think the Knicks need to improve at?
LF: I think the setup is great. I think Mike has a great offense that he’s instilled. So we just gotta perfect on that.
SLAM: Some players have gone on the record saying they were shocked of Walsh’s decision. Were you?
LF: I mean, I wasn’t too shocked but he was the one that gave me a chance to be a Knick. So I’m very grateful for everything he has done for me.
SLAM: Starting in the playoffs against the Celtics as a rookie, how was that experience like?
LF: It was a completely new atmosphere. It’s like a whole different game when you get to playoffs. It was just a great experience like I said.
SLAM: What do you see your role as in this team?
LF: For me, it’s just about doing the little things. I don’t necessarily need to score to be effective out there or successful. So if I’m out there hustling, playing good defense, grabbing boards, and kind of just doing the little things, then I think it will help us out in the long run.
SLAM: How do you feel like you personally can take advantage of D’Antoni’s system?
LF: Really, you just gotta play your game and be aggressive. And like I said, not defer. Kind of just do you, but also in the combines of the offense.
SLAM: Any specific position you think the team should be looking to solidify during the offseason in either free agency or the Draft?
LF: To be honest, I think we’re fine. The layout we have right now is great. Obviously, we could add some more pieces but that’s where the front office decides.