The year isn't quite over yet, but it's safe to say that 2010 will go down as a mighty memorable one in the life of Landry Fields.
It started on a high when he was named Pac-10 Player of the Year on Stanford then seemed to crater when he fell to the second round of the NBA Draft. Worse than that, he was picked by the Knicks whose fans and media slammed him mercilessly as unworthy of a spot on the team. Fields earned a spot in the starting lineup on opening night, something that many took to mean that the Knicks were headed right back to the gutter this season.
How wrong we all were about Mr. Fields. It's now 29 games into his NBA career and there are people thinking twice about including Fields in a trade for Carmelo Anthony, a man that people have been lusting after since Fields was in high school. All of the reasons for the fear of dealing Fields were on display in Wednesday night's 112-98 faith-restoring win over the Thunder.
Fields popped into passing lanes to create steals that turned into easy buckets on the other side of the court. He grabbed rebounds on the defensive glass or poked them away from Thunder players to facilitate his teammates. Fields made nifty outlet passes, set up teammates for buckets on the break and moved the ball around the half-court with wisdom. He drove the ball aggressively -- sometimes too aggressively -- made precise backdoor cuts and knocked down threes despite an awkward release and flat shot that would drive a JV coach crazy.
That last paragraph surely reads like a tween swooning over Justin Bieber, but there won't be an apology. It seemed like every time something good happened on Wednesday night, Fields was right in the middle of it. That made it exactly like every other victory of the season, but there's something about the Christmas season that makes you more aware of the gifts you receive in life.
He didn't do it alone, obviously. Fields's energy was picked up py the whole team, which seemed rejuvenated by their four days off after the Cleveland debacle. The best showing came from a bench that had its strongest game of the season while getting serious minutes at a moment when everyone is focused on giving the starters some help. Ronny Turiaf had 11 points, Toney Douglas got back to his old defensively sound self and Shawne Williams had three blocks and seven points to help the team get back on track. You'd still like to get deeper, but if those three can contribute every night you've made a step toward solving the problems.
Amar'e Stoudemire also looked like he found some restorative tonic during his time off. He didn't have eye-popping scoring numbers, but earned the several chants of "MVP" from the crowd with his complete effort on both sides of the court. His 16 first-half points were nice, but his back-to-back blocks on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the second half were even better. Those blocks put the game out of reach and made for a needed laugher in the wake of a rough week.
With two days off before Saturday's showdown with the Bulls, energy shouldn't be a problem unless Fields spends Christmas Eve using his teammates as sleigh driving reindeer to make even more smiles aroun the New York area.