12:15 pm Oct. 26, 20121
Among the many questions facing the New York Knicks ahead of their November 1 season opener is the one about how they plan to fill out the position of shooting guard.
J.R. Smith has returned, but coach Mike Woodson has gone to great lengths to keep him in a bench role, even starting a player, Mychel Thompson, who is unlikely to make the team ahead of Smith in the preseason. Smith has also missed most of the preseason with an Achilles injury. He's expected to start the season active, but seeing is believing.
Then there's Ronnie Brewer, signed this summer, who only recently returned to the lineup following knee surgery. Brewer is a good bet to be on the court for the start of the Knicks' opener, but he may well be at the small forward position, with Carmelo Anthony lining up at power forward in Amar'e Stoudemire's absence.
Then there's Jason Kidd, who is really a point guard, and James White, whose erratic preseason hasn't made it clear exactly how valuable he can be to the Knicks. Iman Shumpert, the best hope at the position, is out until at least December, and possibly later, recovering from knee surgery.
No one is talking about the player who occupied the starting shooting guard spot for the Knicks for the entirety of the past two seasons: Landry Fields.
Like Jeremy Lin, Fields was a restricted free agent this past summer. Like Lin, Fields received a massive offer, a three-year, $20 million deal from another team. The Knicks never expressed much interest in matching the offer, from the Toronto Raptors, and Fields left.
That Fields received such a contract offer reportedly had little to do with his talent; the Raptors were hoping to manuever the Knicks into being unable to use Fields as part of a sign-and-trade for Steve Nash, thus allowing the Raptors to sign Nash themselves. (The ploy failed; Nash ultimately joined the Los Angeles Lakers.)
That left the Raptors with Fields; the team has gamely insisted they wanted Fields all along, and are starting him at shooting guard.
Fields wasn't expected to contribute at the N.B.A. level following a solid, uspectacular career at Stanford. But Fields surprised many in his first N.B.A. season, posting a respectable 13.5 Player Efficiency Rating in his rookie year for the Knicks while starting 81 of 82 games.
He faltered badly in his second season last year, seeing his three-point shooting dip from a solid 39 percent to an awful 26 percent, simply unacceptable for a shooting guard. His lateral quickness limits him as a defender, and simply rebounding well for his position wasn't enough to make him an overly useful option at shooting guard. Nevertheless, he started 62 of 66 games for the Knicks there, primarily because the team lacked other options.
His preseason performance with the Raptors has been more in line with his second season in New York than his first. Over six games, he's shooting just under 44 percent from the field, and just 16.7 percent from three-point range in 22.5 minutes per game. He's rebounding well for his position, with 4.3 boards per game, but that's about it.
So the Landry Fields deal, unlike the Lin deal, is looking like one the Knicks may have gotten right. The man whose couch served as Jeremy Lin's home for time seems destined to be remembered in New York, first and foremost, for that.