Landry Fields has become a forgotten player on the Toronto Raptors. Another one of former GM Bryan Colangelo’s forgettable free agent signings, Fields was injured most of last season and required follow up treatment for the same nerve issue in his arm this year, however, he’s been back and available for some time and with the Raptors in funk, Head Coach Dwane Casey should be looking to free up some playing time for this versatile wing/forward.
The things that have set Fields back were never his fault. The undiagnosed nerve problem was pretty strange and its recurrence this season unexpected. The bad press from the value of his contract should be hung around Colangelo’s neck, it’s hard to blame Fields for taking the money. Through it all, Fields has remained professional and willing to do whatever is asked of him.
“It’s tough,” Fields said. “In the end everybody is a competitor and you want to go out there and produce for your team as best you can, but right now, it’s just not my role and a lot of guys can sit and make a pity party out of it – and I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of that at times because I’m only human – but, you really have to embrace whatever role you get. Whether you like it or not, you have to maintain your professionalism because whether you are playing or not, the guys upstairs are still paying you and still expecting stuff out of you. You still have something to contribute to the team whether you are playing or not.”
Fields got one start early in March while Terrence Ross sat out with a sore ankle and in 25 minutes, he shot 4-5 for 8 points to go with 6 rebounds as the Raptors beat the Warriors 104-98. Somehow without playing significant minutes since December 10, Fields was ready to contribute.
“The guys who are not getting a lot of minutes are always playing, 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and that keeps us in the best kind of game shape we can replicate outside of playing 5-on-5 and we do that on a very consistent basis, so while we are not playing (in games), we still are technically playing,” Fields said. “The assistant coaches get with us and put it into a structured format. We usually do it before games, before and after practice. In the position we are in, we have a responsibility and that is what it is all about, maintaining your professionalism.”
After what Fields has been through since arriving in Toronto, if anyone has a right to throw themselves a ‘pity party’ it’s him, but Fields never gives off that vibe. Even knowing it’s unlikely that he’ll get put into a game, he’s been staying ready.
“You never know who is going to get into foul trouble and you never know who will go down with injury, so you always have to be ready even if you think you are going to play or you’re not,” Fields said. “You never know what is going to happen out there. You don’t want to be caught off guard.”
While this season is still all about developing Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas and Casey is making obvious moves to evaluate what Nando De Colo might be able to bring to the Raptors, the team is in a playoff race and has a chance to win the Atlantic Division for just the second time in the franchise’s history. If Ross struggles and the 34-year-old John Salmons needs some time off (and it sure looks like he needs a break), it’s time to free Fields and give him a shot.
Casey probably feels he already knows what Fields can bring to the game and doesn’t need to evaluate him further, Fields will play solid defense on 2s, 3s and some 4s, hustle for rebounds and make hard cuts to the basket. In recent loses, those are attributes the Raptors could have used.
Just like several other members of this team, Fields has shown a level of professionalism that warrants some playing time. He could help the Raptors get out of this funk.
Tyler Hansbrough Provides Raptors Playoff Toughness
“That’s how the playoffs are,” Hansbrough said. “It’s a slugfest, its physical grind it out tough basketball. You can’t look for a whistle. We need every game we can (get).”
A Toronto Raptors Road Record Is In Sight
The table is set for Casey and the Raptors to have a winning record on the road. Toronto did their heavy lifting earlier in the season and has one of the softest road schedules possible left, starting on Tuesday night in Cleveland against the 27-44 Cavaliers. In their 7 road games remaining, only the Miami HEAT has a winning record as of March 24. Boston (23-47), Orlando (19-52), Milwaukee (13-58), Detroit (26-44) and the Knicks (29-41) should all be considered winnable games for the 39-30 Raptors.