Oct. 26, 2010
A number of features get written about Stanford athletes throughout the year. With the redesign of www.gostanford.com, those stories can be found on the front page of the website, at the bottom, under the features/blog tab.
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Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal recently caught up with former Stanford standout Landry Fields, who was taken in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks.
As the NBA opens its 2010-11 regular season with several games tonight, Fields has been projected to crack New York's opening-night starting lineup.
The feature is posted below and can also be found HERE.
Four-year college players, the most predictable and developed of all players in the NBA draft, rarely make for surprises. But Landry Fields, the Knicks' unheralded second-round pick from Stanford, has proven to be the exception to that rule.
Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni announced last week that Fields, who said he was happy to even be drafted, was a strong candidate to start at shooting guard in Wednesday's season opener in Toronto.
Since being drafted 39th overall, Fields's remarkable rise has been built on smarts and an underrated athleticism. But the Knicks, aware of a bias against four-year players, thought they had a steal all along.
Still, when he starred for the Knicks in summer league, made waves as a training camp standout and finally forced his way into the rotation, only a handful of Knicks employees didn't express shock.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh said Fields is a perfect example of one of the biggest fallacies of the NBA draft.
When Fields was discussed as a possible candidate to be the Knicks' second-round pick, Walsh could not fathom why he would be available. He asked around the NBA and got only the inexplicable answer that the Pac-10, the conference in which Fields competed, was down last season.
That dismissive review flew in the face of everything else he was hearing. The Knicks team doctors told Walsh that physically Fields was "born to play this game." He had a 39-inch vertical leap and finished in a tie for first place in the competition for the most physically fit player on the team. In fact, every reference came back with glowing reviews.
Walsh, who also selected four-year Syracuse product Andy Rautins in the second round, could only think that Fields was a product of an inefficiency in the market.
"I think the way it has gone, the head of the draft is dominated by the younger guys that are great prospects, then you start getting to upperclassmen, and the upperclassmen are almost seen as a liability," Walsh said.
Not surprisingly, Fields has brains to go with the athleticism. The Stanford graduate won the Pac-10's Scholar-Athlete of the year award last season.
That intelligence manifests itself on the court as well. He has good basketball instincts and said his biggest strength is being able to read opposing players by their tendencies--things as small as the way they turn their head before making a play.
He said he likes to show his athleticism only in spurts and in certain situations, and is smart enough to follow D'Antoni's edict that the marquee players, Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, control the ball most of the time. His job is to play well within that system.
D'Antoni said Fields is a "glue guy," the kind of unselfish and well-rounded player who holds a team together.
"He looks like he does everything simple, and usually when that happens, the guy is much quicker than you think," Walsh said.
Fields said that he developed many of those attributes during his four-year stay at Stanford.
He said it was invaluable to spend three years as a role player, learning to play off the ball when he wasn't a focus of the offense.
Then he became a star in his senior year and led the Pac-10 in scoring, averaging 22 points a game.
"He wasn't a first, second or third option for us early, and yet he was still so productive," said Johnny Dawkins, his coach at Stanford.
Dawkins said Fields grew four inches from the time he arrived as a freshman, from 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-7. He bounced between shooting guard, small forward and power forward his first three years, averaging just 7.1 points and three rebounds. But his senior year, when injuries hurt the team's depth in the frontcourt, he switched to power forward and averaged nearly nine rebounds a game.
D'Antoni has mentioned that even at shooting guard, Fields may be a potential cure for the team's rebounding woes.
Fields's quick grasp of D'Antoni's fast, open offense shouldn't be surprising.
At Team USA practices in recent years, Dawkins spent plenty of time with D'Antoni. He learned parts of the Knicks coach's offense and utilized different parts of it at Stanford.
Dawkins said he spoke at length with D'Antoni before the draft and said Fields would be a perfect fit for the Knicks' system. D'Antoni certainly sees the value of a four-year player.
"They are more mature--they've had good coaching for four years," he said. "Instead of sending some guy down to the [developmental] league, the more you play and not sit on the end of the bench, the better, and some guys mature a little later, develop a little later.''
There are still shortcomings in Fields's game, such as what D'Antoni calls his "funky jump shot," which he is fixing.
Assistant coach Dan D'Antoni said that Fields's delivery was too high, which blocked his view of the basket. He also needed to develop a quicker release. Dan D'Antoni said he's improved in both areas, but that he's still adjusting.