Landry Fields, through no fault of his own, has been the odd man out in Toronto for the past two seasons. Multiple surgeries to relieve pressure on a nerve in his right arm never really resolved an uncontrolled twitch that ruined his three-point shot and even made layups an adventure, but Fields never gave in and never gave up. He kept working and when the Raptors have turned to him, he’s produced as a smart defensive player and someone that could work around his offensive limitations. A very well-spoken Stanford grad, no one has ever doubted his I.Q. both on and off the court.
Fields knew he was not going to be in the rotation this season and even mused about life after basketball before training camp started, but he got to play in half a dozen games in the first month of the regular season and his hard work during the summer and on the practice court showed. Fields shot 62.5 percent from the field in November, but he only played 22 minutes and took just 8 shots.
“I kind of had to (reinvent myself),” Fields told Pro Bball Report. “It is kind of like a fight or flight type of thing. When something is not really going your way you try your best and you try and do different things to be as productive as possible for your team so you can prolong – not just right now – but your career. There are areas I’ve been working on and Coach has been great putting me in so I can work it into game situations and it’s worked out so far. There is still a lot of work and still things I would like to do, but it has just been a wild ride to say the least.”
Head Coach Dwane Casey has never given up on Fields. He respects Fields work ethic and ability to defend multiple positions. Fields got his chance to play significant minutes after DeMar DeRozan was injured and Casey needed a shooting guard.
In December, Fields started 6 games and the Raptors went 5-1 over that stretch. He only lost the job because he suffered a concussion that has held him out of action since then. Fields averaged 20.8 minutes and 4.7 points on 57.9 percent shooting from the field. He even made a three-point shot that brought cheers and congratulations from the bench.
One of the secrets to Fields offensive success, aside from being very selective about initiating any offense for himself, has been the development of a better left hand. Fields has always been disciplined and doesn’t mind being the guy that makes the pass that leads to the pass that gets the assist.
“I am trying to work (on my left hand) for the benefits (in) the game as well,” Fields said. “If your right (hand) isn’t all the way there, might as well start working with the left and it’s kind of what I’ve been doing. The more reps you have with it, the easier and more competent you are with it.”
Left hand, right hand or no hand, if Fields can shoot over 50 percent from the field and contribute on defense, he can find a job in the NBA.
Those six starts in December were a showcase of what Fields can still bring to an NBA court and from he was able to show, he isn’t done playing just yet. Fields has a salary cap hit of $6.2 million and a cash salary of $8 million and because of his injury, he will not be able to justify what he is being paid. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value.
Fields has the highest salary of any player on the Raptors who isn’t part of the regular rotation and that big expiring contract could make him a key piece in any trade President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri might make in an attempt to upgrade the team’s roster for the postseason and beyond. Showcasing an ability to still play and be effective makes it a lot easier to include Fields in future trade discussions.
The showcase could also be used to justify Ujiri bringing Fields back to Toronto next season as a young veteran on a minimum salary who can fill a role if someone were to get hurt. Fields isn’t an inexperienced rookie or unknown castoff from another organization. Coach Casey knows exactly what to expect if he turns to Fields for help. The Fields that started those six games in December is a useful 12th man on any playoff bound team.
Without any improvement to his right arm this season Fields’ NBA career may be coming to an end. “Tomorrow I can’t control, but I do understand that my contract might not be the same (next year),” Fields said. “I might not be in basketball after this year. At the end of the day basketball is just something I do, it doesn’t define me. As long as I keep it like that, it is not so devastating whenever it ends and it ends for everybody.”
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. 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.”