HALIFAX - Traditionally the glue guy on a basketball team is one of those older souls who comes off the bench and does the unheralded work.
He’s often times under-appreciated by those on the outside but fiercely coveted by those with whom he plays.
He is the guy who maybe doesn’t fill the basket but makes it possible for a teammate to do so.
His basketball IQ is normally off the charts. He doesn’t just run the floor to give himself an opportunity. He does it knowing that by doing so, he can create an opportunity for someone else.
The last time the Raptors franchise enjoyed any real success in the standings, it was Spaniard Jorge Garbajosa filing that role.
Garbajosa earned that role with his consistency. He consistently set good, tough screens for teammates to free them up. He consistently put the ball in exactly the right pair of hands to get off the right shot.
If anything his value is best summed up by what has happened to the Raptors since he left. With him in 2006/07 they made the playoffs. Garbajosa was hurt for most of 2007/08 but he was still around and they made the playoffs again that year.
They haven’t been back since.
In the interim, the Raptors have had guys who played the game like Garbajosa did but none that were quite as effective in that role.
In Landry Fields, the Raptors may have found someone who could be that Garbajosa-like player.
The ‘glue guy’ term is one Fields, even in his rookie year was hearing. And he has his own definition of that kind of player.
“I hear the term a lot,” Fields said Thursday. “A glue guy is kind of unheralded at times. It’s a guy every team needs who doesn’t necessarily show up in the statistics box with superstar stats but even when they don’t they are still effective on the court, whether that’s making right cuts so somebody else is open or running the floor, so he draws another person’s man and that person is open. It’s the guy who does the little things to help teams win. Every team has to have a guy like that.”
And while Fields is entering just his third year in the NBA, he is already well accustomed to playing that role, having done so in each of his first two years with the New York Knicks.
“It’s the kind of player I have always kind of been,” he said. “Maybe not my senior year at college, but in the league, yeah definitely. Coming in as a rookie, we had some great players in New York and even in my second season. I kind of moulded into that kind of player. If I can bring that over to the Raptors, that would be great, but we do have some very talented pieces in the forefront of our offence.”
Dwane Casey considers Fields the “prototypical” glue guy.
“Very intelligent. Knows how to play. One of our best wing runners, just a guy you want on your team,” Casey said rattling off his own personal scouting report of Fields. “I hate to compare him to a present player but he reminds me somewhat of Shane Battier. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
And while an elite scorer might take offence to filling the role, Fields looks upon it as a compliment and an honour.
“I guess it depends on who you are,” he said. “Some guys, I’m sure, would be like: No, I’m the superstar, but for me, it’s kind of where I have made my niche in the NBA. It’s kind of what I do and I’m hoping to stay with it.”
But looking up and down Casey’s roster it’s apparent that he’s not the only sticky substance on the list.
Casey himself considers centres Amir Johnson and Aaron Gray glue guys based on their performances a year ago. He’s also got Alan Anderson who comes off the bench at the three spot and fills the role.
Newcomer Dominic McGuire has a lot of the same glue-guy type characteristics.
That’ a lot of glue for one team, but Fields views it as a positive.
“That’s not necessarily bad because you have guys who are willing to do the extra things that are needed to win ball games,” Fields said.
Fields is currently in a training camp battle with Linas Kleiza for the starting minutes at the small forward position. Whether he winds up with that role or not, he seems destined to become an important part of this Raptors roster.