by Tracy Weissenberg

At 32.1 minutes per game, Landry Fields is the third most utilized rookie in the NBA this season, and second if you count only players from his actual draft class. This creates an interesting hierarchy for a player chosen 39th overall.

Entering the 2010 draft, Fields says he didn’t have an idea when he would be selected. “It was kind of going into the unknown—didn’t know where I’d be picked,” he says. “I knew a few teams liked me, the Knicks were one of them, so I was thankful they picked me.”

On being chosen by the Knicks, Fields says he was “very excited, you know it’s a great city for basketball.” He mentions that it was a “whole new franchise coming in” regarding the offseason additions that would shape this season’s Knicks team.

The marquee addition was Amar’e Stoudemire, who was recently voted into the starting lineup of the 2011 All-Star game. Stoudemire has embraced the scrutiny that comes with the spotlight of playing in New York and he has injected the Knicks with a sense of urgency this season.

On playing with Stoudemire, Fields says, “It’s great, [he is] a great leader on the floor and off the court.  He’s a monster; he’s a lot to handle. We feed off of him when he’s doing well and he’s kind of a guy we don’t want to disappoint. We want to go out there and play hard—not only for ourselves and the team—but for him as a leader.”

Not only has Fields earned ample playing time, but he has started all 47 games this season. Asked when he learned he would be in the starting lineup, Fields says, “The day before we left for Toronto, I think that was our first game. [Head coach Mike D’Antoni] brought me into his office and told me I’d be starting.  It was very exciting for me.”

From the 2010 draft class, only John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Landry Fields heard their names announced in the starting lineup on opening night.

Regarding what he contributes to the starting five, Fields says, “Just trying to be a glue guy, kind of make those hustle plays cause we got enough offensive power…so I’m out there doing the little things that will help out the team.”

Fields currently ranks second among rookies in field goal percentage (52.3), third in three point percentage (38.3), second in steals (1.1), third in rebounds (7.1) and fourth in points (10.1). Not bad for a rookie whose goal coming into the season was “just trying to make the rotation.”

Asked if he is surprised by his success, Fields says, “Yeah, more so with the timing and how soon it was.”

The Knicks are currently 6th in the East, which puts them on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Asked about the Knicks’ success this season, Fields says, “It’s been great, the city’s really behind us and they’re excited too so it’s been fun so far.”

While the city of New York is experiencing a recharged professional hoops scene, California native Fields is taking in a new environment as well. Asked if he had been to Madison Square Garden growing up, he says, “No never, the first time I went was when I first got out here.” He describes his first game at MSG as “a lot of fun, great excitement with the fans and it was kind of mind boggling.”

While his play has been embraced by the city of New York, Fields may have the opportunity to put on a show for his home crowd as well. Asked if a selection to play in the Rookie Challenge game at 2011 All-Star weekend would mean a lot to him, Fields says, “Oh yeah definitely, it would be a lot of fun. Especially, it’s in L.A.—it’s where I’m from.  So, it’d be nice.”

The Knicks recently lost a heated matchup against the Hawks in Atlanta. After the game, Fields sat in front of his locker next to some teammates.  A few young kids with credentials walked in and stared with wide eyes around the room. One of the boys broke into a huge smile and shouted “Landry!” at the Knicks rookie. Fields smiled, walked over and introduced himself to the small group.

Even on the losing side of the night’s contest, some guys remain winners.