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Is Landry Fields Toronto’s Shane Battier?
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On July 22, 2012 @ 9:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Toronto Raptors headed into this offseason with what team president and general manager Bryan Colangelo described as flexibility and a stated desire to dramatically improve on last year’s results. Colangelo had engineered the potential for a blockbuster trade at the draft and the ability to create the salary cap space to go after a big name free agent. Nothing happened at the draft and, in many people’s eyes, when free agent Steve Nash picked the Los Angeles Lakers over Toronto, Colangelo’s plans had failed. However, that may not be the case.
“In the couple of weeks leading up to the draft and now entering free agency with a whole host of things, you never quite know how it is going to turn out,” Colangelo said. “You hope you can anticipate certain results and you have different scenarios that you put on paper and you have a lot of balls up in the air. In fact, we have been juggling a lot of different scenarios over the last several weeks that we are very pleased with the outcome here with respect to some of the pieces as they fall into place.”
The Raptors did land their point guard of the future in a post-draft trade with the Houston Rockets. While Kyle Lowry isn’t Steve Nash, he will have a dramatic positive impact on how the Raptors perform next season. In what was perceived as mostly a play to knock the New York Knicks out of contention for Nash, the Raptors offered Landry Fields a three-year back-loaded contract worth about $19 million. The luxury-tax-challenged Knicks declined to match and Fields will join the Raptors next season.
“It’s pleasing, it’s satisfying to see that the pieces you aimed for, you get whether it was draft, free agency and also trades,” Colangelo said. “We have priorities on various players and we are making a lot of headway toward those priorities.”
The Raptors did not have to offer a “poison-pill” type of contract to Fields in order to disrupt the Knicks’ ability to use him in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns for Nash, a more straightforward offer sheet could have accomplished that goal. The offer sheet was designed to get the Knicks to give up their restricted free agent and enable the Raptors to get their man.
It’s obvious that the Raptors had many needs heading into this offseason. If the goal was to challenge for a playoff spot, one of those needs was a “glue-player” similar to what Jorge Garbajosa provided Toronto in the division championship season of 2006-07. Garbajosa had the court awareness and discipline to make everyone around him better on the defensive end and the Raptors were never the same after he was injured. In a more current context, Colangelo identifies a more familiar player.
“Comparisons, he’s a Shane Battier type,” said Colangelo. “Shane obviously has had a very nice career, but (Fields has) very similar traits. A lot of similar characteristics and if we get anything close to that we are going to be happy.
“We anticipate very solid things out of Landry and you kind of look at certain guys in the league and project them out to be certain types of players. He clearly is a versatile player and a guy who can stop an opponent at various positions. Back in college, he probably played four positions or he guarded four positions. He can probably played a little bit of two, three and even some very small four in certain situations or he can guard players like that. We know what we are going to get from him every day in practice, every game when he steps on the court. We know what we are going to get from him. That’s the kind of guy you want to invest in and understand that you are going to get something tangible from him every time he steps on the floor for your team.”
At the very least, Fields brings a Battier-type attitude to the Raptors, a team-first orientation that can make the players around him better. A number one option and 22 point per game player in his senior year at Stanford, Fields adapted quickly to being the fourth or fifth option as a starter in New York and has proven his willingness to sacrifice personal statistics in order to get wins.
“At times it can be difficult,” Fields said. “But I think when you understand your worth and when teams instill that worth in you knowing you do these things well and the intangibles in your game might not show up in the stats sheet. When they know that and bank on you for those certain reasons, stats kind of go out the window. You just want to go out there and perform to the best of your ability and hopefully win.”
These are the values Raptors head coach Dwane Casey puts a premium on and represents how he wants his team to play going forward. Fields was signed to that offer sheet by the Raptors because he is a Casey-type player and Fields signed in Toronto because he can see how he fits in.
“There are not many egos here and everybody wants to do what they can to win,” Fields said. “Coach Casey, I have spoken to him a couple of times and he seems the same way.
“If everybody buys into what they need to do and what they can bring to the table, we are ready to compete with anybody.”
The Raptors are going to be a very different team from the defensively unaware squad that couldn’t stop anyone two seasons ago or the injury-plagued transitional team of last season. Colangelo has avoided his earlier attempts to quick-fix his team with name-players of questionable health or work ethic and gone after those known for their defense and hard work. Fields may not develop into the next Battier, but he is the closest talent the Raptors have acquired since Garbajosa went down to potentially fulfilling that role.
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