The Toronto Raptors Landry Fields 2012-2013 season was disrupted by an elbow nerve problem that caused his hand to twitch and his shot to vanish. Surgery was supposed to have fixed it, but in January of this year, Fields was back under the knife again. A lot changed for the Raptors over the course of this season, but suddenly in April, everything Head Coach Dwane Casey saw in Fields this past October is relevant again. Fortunately for the Raptors, Fields can still defend.
“Landry this whole month, this whole summer has been great and I told him, don’t even worry about his shot,” Casey said during preseason. “He has been working his butt off on his shot and his shot is improved, but I am not even concerned about that because he brings so many other things to the table. His cutting, his defensive presence, his ball handling, his passing, his leadership, so many things he brings and everybody wants to focus on his shooting. There are (only) so many glue guys like him that you have to have on your team. He is a very, very valuable piece of our team.”
When he has played, Fields has guarded nearly every position on the court. A legit 6’ 6.5” tall without shoes, Fields has the size to play at the forward positions and the ball-handling ability and court vision to be effective at shooting guard. Fields versatility comes because he doesn’t rely on superior athleticism to get the job done.
“I don’t find myself as athletic by NBA standards as most people, so I have to make up for it in other areas,” Fields said. “If I am reading a defender, the moment he turns his head, I’m back-cutting or the moment he looks at me on a rebound, when he turns, that is my time to go and just trying to get to open spots on the floor. It is all about reading the defense.”
The same principles apply to the defensive end of the court. Many of the league’s best defenders are not the most athletic players. They are, however, disciplined and make the effort to read the offense and anticipate the next move without taking unnecessary risks.
“We have defensive principles that Coach instills in us every single day and when you understand that, then it starts to grow and you get the basic foundation,” Fields said. “Then you can start reading plays much earlier and anticipating once you have that core defensive foundation.
“You don’t have to be the fastest, quickest, most athletic player defensively, you just have to understand angles, you have to anticipate certain things. When you go against a quicker guy or a guy who likes to drive a lot, you have to give yourself a little bit of space, stay on your toes and when he pulls up, contest it well. There are so many good offensive players in this league, of course they are going to hit shots, but you just want to make it as hard as possible on them, make them go (past) their second to their third and fourth options.”
Last year, as Fields started to regain some of his form after his elbow surgery, Casey went to him with tough defensive assignments and Fields accepted the challenge. His offense had become unreliable, but Fields didn’t let that affect his defensive effort.
“He was one of our sic’em guys last year against James, Anthony and those guys like that,” Casey said.
“Last year when my confidence was wavering about my shot, I had to really lock up on D in order to stay on the floor,” Fields said. “I think that was one of the big things that kept me on the floor was my ability to defend. That is something that I am taking into this year and I think the coaches and the front office really see that is what I can bring to this team, especially this year.”
This year, with John Salmons ineffective because of a sore back in game one of the playoffs, the Raptors needed Fields to be their sic’em guy on Joe Johnson of the Nets and he was a big part of Casey’s 8-man rotation that won game two. Fields can still defend.
Toronto Raptors Should Free Landry Fields
“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.”