Even though teams scouted him endlessly, double- and triple-teamed him, he scored in every possible way. Sometimes he never came off the court, as a Landry Fields with tired legs was better than no Fields at all. Opposing teams wrote entire game plans around him, but every time Fields stepped on the court his senior year at Stanford he was nearly unstoppable.
Fields averaged a moderate 7.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in his first three seasons combined in a Cardinal jersey. He was a role player who was often overshadowed by the Lopez twins during his first two years, but he became Stanford’s star when his team needed one.
His senior season was one of Stanford’s best ever. He ranked eighth nationally in scoring with 22.0 points per game and led all Pac-10 players in 20-point games (21), double-doubles (13) and minutes played (36.3 per game).
He ranked second in the league in rebounding with 8.8 per game and led Stanford in free throws and attempts (179-257), blocks (25) and steals (51).
He headlined the All-Pac-10 First Team and was named the Pac-10 Men’s Basketball Student-Athlete of the Year while carrying a 3.03 GPA in Communication.
Fields received little recognition for his efforts in a year when the Pac-10 was perceived as uncharacteristically untalented, and scouts could not see or chose not to acknowledge just how good Fields was his senior season.
Fields played both inside and on the perimeter, but whereas Stanford relished his versatility, scouts pigeonholed him as a tweener without a position that would translate to the NBA. Stanford fans knew he almost single-handedly carried a team that was often depleted by injury and consisted of almost as many players who were current or former walk-ons as scholarship players.
He earned the moniker “Skillz” from his teammates because his myriad of talents, but he was widely regarded in NBA circles as too slow, unathletic and predictable to play at the professional level.
The Stanford coaches and staff tried to convince anyone who would listen that Fields was an NBA-caliber player, that he worked hard on the court and studied hard off of it, that having better teammates would neither eclipse his talent nor make him irrelevant but only make him better.
Few people listened, and fewer still were convinced. Fields, the leading scorer of a major conference, dropped down to the second round and the 39th pick before the New York Knicks drafted him with the steal of the year.
He proceeded to tear up the Summer League, and now Fields is finally getting noticed and has surprised many with his stellar play in his rookie season. His multifaceted game shows up in the box scores, as he averages 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.0 assists per game. Of a roster that includes perennial All-Star Amare Stoudemire and several established NBA veterans, Fields is the only Knick to play in and start every game this season. He was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in November, and then earned the same honor in December. In February, he tallied 15 points and six rebounds in the Rookie-Sophomore All-Star game.
When the Knicks began negotiating a deal to bring Carmelo Anthony to the New York, they refused to give up Fields, their invaluable rookie. Spike Lee, the celebrity courtside mainstay at Madison Square Garden, has taken to wearing Fields’ No. 6 jersey to games. Even the Stanford staff who pleaded with teams to give him a shot did not predict he would have made his way into the starting lineup by the beginning of the season, that he would challenge the overwhelming favorite Blake Griffin for Rookie of the Year award or that he would be the x-factor that could propel the Knicks to their first playoff berth since 2004.
There is a lot to like about Fields off the court too. He showed up at the Stanford vs. Virginia game sporting diamond stud earrings in both ears, designer jeans and a high-collared jacket—a little different than the standard Stanford sweatsuit that he wore during his time on The Farm, but he deserves a little glitz.
He chose to live in White Plains instead of Manhattan because of its proximity to the Knicks’ practice facility and in order to keep distractions to a minimum. He stays out of trouble and works hard, not surprising for a kid who took the SAT four times before his score was good enough for him to be admitted to Stanford. He has been praised by Coach Mike D'Antoni for his maturity, but he does not take himself too seriously (he recently went undercover as a salesman at Modell's Sporting Goods, and whether he was successful at selling his own jersey is debatable, but he did show off his singing, dancing and H.O.R.S.E skills). He turned down scholarship offers from Arizona and Gonzaga and then had to wait until the spring signing period before he was admitted to Stanford, but he held out for his first choice school because of its academic reputation. Despite his recent incredible success, he has maintained the humility and work ethic that originally vaulted him to the NBA.
Fields has quietly disproved his critics and taken the NBA by surprise, and the Knicks could not be happier. For Fields, the question is no longer if he will be drafted or if he can play with the best, but just how far this promising rookie will go.
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