Raptors’ Landry Fields Not a Bust After All
No one is debating that the Toronto Raptors overpaid to sign restricted free agent Landry Fields away from the New York Knicks, that unfortunately is just the cost of prying young talent out of the hands of another team. While Toronto had ulterior moves at the time as well, the Raptors did believe they were adding another productive player to their roster. However, Fields has been anything but productive in his first five regular season games in Toronto.
Fields started 143 games for the Knicks and averaged 30 minutes per contest over his first two seasons, but in Toronto, head coach Dwane Casey was justified in holding him to just 21.4 minutes per game. With the lowest utilization rate of his NBA career, Fields was turning the ball over a career high 16.5 percent of the time and the career 47.4 percent shooter couldn’t find the bottom of the net to save his life. Fields wasn’t just missing open jump shots; he was completely blowing uncontested layups on his way to a 20.8 percent shooting average.
The shooter who couldn’t shoot and turned the ball over at a high rate was becoming a major disappointment, but Fields finally came clean after the game in Dallas about what was going wrong.
“Actually in training camp is when I first noticed it,” Fields explained. “Every time I went up to shoot my hand would kind of clinch on the left side. It just happened involuntarily. From that time until a week ago, I have just been trying to play through it and work around it, but I was realizing that we would get in to game situations or practice when I had time to really focus on it, it does it on its’ own. Finally after the game in Dallas, I went to the trainers and said something is really wrong with my hand. We have to figure it out. They did some tests on their own and determined there was some weakness there. After that we went to the doctor and then the New York doctor and got a second opinion.”
While trainers and doctors in Toronto were able to confirm that something was wrong, they didn’t come up with a definitive diagnosis. In New York, the problem with the right elbow was confirmed, the cause identified and a surgical solution was found.
“The second opinion, we did some nerve conduction tests and found there was a block in my elbow region,” Fields said. “So what they did surgically was they moved the ulnar nerve above the bone and that frees it up and that is what has been causing the problem.”
Since Fields was not feeling any pain in his right hand or elbow, he believed that the problem would go away on its own and he could get his shot back by concentrating a little harder and putting up a few extra shots. This wasn’t successful and the failure to resolve the situation was having an obvious impact on the rest of Fields’ game.
“There was no pain,” Fields said. “That is why it wasn’t really an issue to me. I figured I could work around this by getting extra shots up. When that wasn’t working, that’s when I starting thinking wait a minute, there is something wrong here. I know I’m not that bad. Then you internalize it and it affects your mental game, so finally I said I can’t do this anymore, I have to get some help with this.
“The whole time I am thinking is it mental? So actually I am fortunate and glad that it was a problem because nobody could explain it and that really messed me up mentally.”
Fields doesn’t know why the problem occurred or what caused it. This undiagnosed problem was something he probably had before he arrived in Toronto.
“I don’t know [why],” Fields said. “All I l know is that it is weakening the muscle and it could have been going on before, but I have no idea. I could be falling, getting hit or repetition. I don’t think we will ever know the exact cause.”
Now Fields is waiting for his follow-up visit with Dr. Andrew Weiland in New York City to find out when he can get back on the court.
“I have to go back to the doctor to have it looked at and get the stitches out,” Fields said. “I don’t really want to put a set timetable on it because that’s what the coaches and trainers have told me. We’ll just take it from there once I see the doctor and that will be in about a couple of weeks.”
According to at least one medical reference source, if no postoperative immobilization is necessary, it may be possible for Fields to begin active motion almost immediately with the resumption of normal activities within one to two months, so the Raptors have hope for a quick return to the lineup.
With a solid explanation behind Fields abysmal start to the season and the likely solution in hand, the complaints about the Raptors free agent addition should begin to die down. Fields wasn’t trying too hard or suffering from poor team chemistry, it was a correctable medical condition and the Raptors will find out what kind of player they really acquired in another month or two.