The New York Knicks head into the NBA All-Star break with a 28-26 record, good for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Furthermore, the Knicks' 28 wins are just one shy of their 29 total victories from all of last season.
Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks’ resident superstar, has led the charge and will represent the team, the city and its fans as their first All-Star starter since Patrick Ewing in 1992.
Though Stoudemire will be given much credit for his team’s vast improvement, he’s gotten some help along the way. Raymond Felton, who many feel was slighted in regard to an All-Star selection of his own, has been Stoudemire’s right-hand man.
Just how much Felton has seen his game improve this season may be a bit of a surprise, but there has been no greater pleasant surprise than Knicks’ second-round rookie selection, Landry Fields.
Aside from Stoudemire, Fields is the only other Knick traveling to Los Angeles to represent the team during All-Star Weekend. He will be taking part in Friday night’s Rookies vs. Sophomores contest.
While Fields has been one of the league’s top rookies this season, he has been more than just your average first-year player for the Knicks. Starting in all 54 games this season, Fields has played with a maturity that is crucial on such a young Knicks team.
Fields may not always have the most extravagant stat lines, but he is certainly a consistent performer. In addition, any “rookie mistakes” he has made have been non-existent, instead having displayed a remarkable veteran know-how thus far this season.
It’s no wonder that the Nuggets have had their eyes on Fields through trade negotiations with the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony. While acquiring the superstar remains a goal for the Knicks, they would prefer Anthony and Fields instead don orange and blue together.
Fields has the tangibles and intangibles to be the perfect role player—that is perhaps what makes him so valuable. By now, fans recognize his smart defense and solid fundamentals. A two-time “Rookie of the Month” already, he is one of the best rebounding guards of the entire league, let alone a top rebounder on the Knicks at 7.1 boards per game.
He may have what it takes to be the perfect complementary guy on any given team, but could the young Fields ultimately be more for the Knicks?
Coach Mike D’Antoni has been slowly but surely (and quietly, to the dismay of many opponents) inserting Fields more and more into the offensive show with each passing game.
Aside from a career game in which he knocked down five three-point field goals on his way to a 25-point, 10-rebound performance in a 117-103 win earlier this month against the Philadelphia 76ers, Fields has had multiple games where he’s knocked down three shots from long range, shooting 40 percent from downtown and 52 percent overall.
Fields has been viewed as a supporting team player all season long because he has found his place alongside the likes of Stoudemire and Felton. However, after averaging 22 points for Stanford during his senior year, the potential to become a more reliable scorer as his career progresses absolutely exists.
Nevertheless, Fields, the 39th-overall pick of last year’s draft, was slept on by just about every team in the league. That won’t stop him, however, from rubbing elbows with some of the league’s best young talent in Friday’s contest.
An ascending fan favorite, the enthusiastic Fields is a great player for the NBA to feature during the widely promoted weekend. He’s already been seen on a couple of humorous YouTube videos throughout the season.
Stoudemire has become the face of the Knicks’ renaissance, so an All-Star selection was absolutely deserved. The fact that the Knicks fans (craving for a playoff appearance) rewarded him with a starting spot is even sweeter.
Of course, Shawne Williams may have been snubbed out of the Sprite Three-Point Contest, and it may have been nice to see Bill Walker take flight in the Spite Slam-Dunk Contest, but Fields' remarkable, impressive and quite surprising performance this season deserves to be recognized, as he has perhaps been just as essential (if not more) to his team’s success than any other well-known player.
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