Expectations come in all shapes and sizes in the world of professional sports.
Landry Fields, through no fault of his own, may be carrying a bigger load than he normally would going into the 2012-13 season.
Fields, a solid but by no means dominant small forward/shooting guard, is coming into his third year in the NBA and first with the Raptors after two seasons as a member of the New York Knicks.
He comes in earning (on average) slightly more than the average NBA player primarily because of circumstance.
You see, Fields, who will make somewhere just south of $20-million over the next three seasons, was crucial in the New York Knicks’ plans to acquire Canada’s own two-time NBA MVP, Steve Nash, from Phoenix.
That would be the same Steve Nash the Raptors were hoping to repatriate for it’s own roster.
Throwing money at Nash was not a problem for the flush Raptors, who reportedly offered three years and $36 million, a number the Knicks couldn’t come close to matching with what they were already on the hook for to others.
But a sign and trade with Phoenix would allow the Knicks to close some of that wide gap. Phoenix could re-sign Nash and then flip him to New York for a handful of players, most of whom would never see the floor of the U.S. Airways Center let alone a Phoenix jersey with their own name on it.
But according to Yahoo Sports and a handful of other media sources, the two from the group that would make it worth the Suns’ while were point guard Iman Shumpert and Fields.
The Raptors, by offering the restricted free agent Fields a three-year deal in the $20-million neighbourhood, could in essence scuttle any such deal. Even had the Knicks matched the Toronto offer, rules within the collective bargaining agreement would then prevent New York from offering him to someone else.
As it turned out the strategy, if that was in fact the Raptors’ strategy, became redundant when Nash opted for Los Angeles to be closer to his kids.
All of which left Fields a Raptor for what is at first glance probably more than he’s worth.
One national columnist went so far to refer to the Fields contract as “Easily the worst off-season signing in the NBA.”
Considering it averages out to just over the league average salary per year, that is clearly debatable but what isn’t debatable is that with a $20-million deal come much bigger expectations.
It may turn out that Fields is worth every penny of the contract. It might even come to be considered cheap by the time all is said and done. Still a week shy of training camp, there is a very good chance Fields could wind up starting at small forward for the Raptors.
His ability and willingness to defend will make him a nice fit whether he’s starting for Dwane Casey or coming off the bench for him. He could also be part of the answer to the Raptors rebounding deficiencies. And while he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in his second year, he was very consistent, particularly for a rookie, in his first.
Fields, in his first community service as a Raptor, spent Wednesday afternoon personally delivering tickets to a few longtime Raptors season subscribers.
Between drop-offs he was asked if he was insulted by insinuations like the one by the above national columnist that paint him as an opportunist.
“Not really,” he said. “I’m happy to be here and I’m reaping all the benefits from it so I didn’t take any kind of offence to it at all. I’m where I need to be and I’m happy to be here and do whatever they need me to do.”
As for the question of feeling pressure to live up to such a hefty raise, Fields says it’s been nonexistent so far.
“With the guys and the coaching staff, they haven’t put any of that on me and I haven’t felt any at all either so I’ll just maintain this attitude throughout the season.”
Fields went through some growing pains in his second year. A meteoric rise to the Knicks starting five in his rookie season after they snagged him in the second round of the 2010 draft, Fields shooting touch eluded him in his sophomore season.
The Stanford alum said a slew of different factors played into that.
“I think I was kind of a surprise that first year and then everyone kind of hunkered down and my game kind of changed a little bit,” he said. “A lot of things off the court changed, but I’m not trying to make excuses. It’s just what it was. I’m glad I went through it. It has made me a better player and a better person.”
Fields said he learned how to push through when the tough times came in his second year. He talked about the need to have a short-term memory when dealing with it.
All good advice for year three as well because in all likelihood, any struggles this year will have people pointing to his contract and expecting more.
LANDRY LIKES LOWRY A LOT
Landry Fields has only been scrimmaging with his new teammates for a couple of weeks and already he’s become a bigger fan of Kyle Lowery’s than he ever was playing against him.
“I didn’t understand what kind of player he was until after being with him these past few weeks,” Fields said. “He’s a leader out there and he’s a really good point guard. With him on this squad it’s going to be great for us. I didn’t even expect the kind of player he was.”
The biggest surprise was how take-charge Lowery has been, even as a newcomer to the team like Fields himself.
“He just has that leadership mentality and it definitely stands out, but we’ll see what happens with it all,” Fields says.
The Raptors have had plenty of good leaders in the past but the recent past has seen more leaders by example than the vocal get-in-your-face type.
Fields wasn’t ready to stick that label on Lowery after just a couple of weeks, but if that is the case it wouldn’t be a bad thing for an organization that has lacked that kind of locker room leadership for years now.