GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Landry Fields realizes his poor finish to last season left the door open for the New York Knicks to seek other options at guard.
Iman Shumpert is ready if Fields’ stumble created an opportunity for him.
The young guards started workouts at the Knicks’ training facility Monday, Fields seeking to move past the forgettable end to his rookie season, Shumpert eyeing a strong start to his.
The Knicks are set at point guard with the acquisition of Chauncey Billups last February in the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony from Denver. But that deal turned the shooting guard spot into an offensive weakness, with Fields struggling to fit in around those two and All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire.
Fields admitted he “shrunk” a little when the team added that talent and he never recovered, ending his season by being woefully outplayed in his matchup with Ray Allen in the Boston Celtics’ four-game sweep of the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.
“The dynamics changed a little but usually I pride myself on being able to adapt,” Fields said. “I’ve always been a player that’s been like that. It didn’t come as quickly to me last year as I wanted it to, so I think this year is going to be a lot better.”
For most of the season, Fields played well beyond the expectations of a second-round pick. The Eastern Conference rookie of the month in both November and December was so productive that some Knicks fans didn’t want him included in a potential deal for Anthony, and he was voted to the All-Rookie first team after averaging 9.7 points.
But he scored in double figures only 10 times in 28 games after the trade, citing a number of possible reasons for his struggles.
“Just trying to get used to the way we were playing, and also 82 (games), add on preseason, all the practices, could have been a rookie wall,” he said. “Definitely felt some fatigue toward the end, but I’m not here to make excuses. I know this year’s going to be a lot better.”
The Stanford product averaged just 1.8 points on 3-of-15 shooting against Boston, while Allen torched him for 22 per game. Fields acknowledged worrying that the poor finish could have given the Knicks incentive to look for an upgrade at his position, but he got over that during his offseason workouts.
“I’ve thought about that a little bit, especially towards the end of last season, right when it ended,” he said. “But over the summer I got a lot more confident and going into this year I’d say it’s a lot better.”
Fields bulked up and worked on shooting from the wings and corners, spots where shots are available in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. And the Knicks may not find a better option at shooting guard, given that they are committed to only offering one-year contracts so they can save money for free agency next summer and a potential chase of Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.
The Knicks added to their guard core in the draft by taking Shumpert with the No. 17 pick. He averaged 17.3 points as a junior at Georgia Tech, ranked sixth in the nation in steals, and can play either guard spot.
Knicks fans are already aware of his athleticism through some YouTube videos, and they’ve let him know through Twitter of their interest in his improvement elsewhere.
“Knicks fans are just wanting to see basketball and I understand that. Knicks fans demand a lot,” he said. “I may tweet ‘I’m with my mom’ or something like that, and Knicks fans are like ‘You should be shooting 1,000 shots.’ Just having that on you all the time, it makes you work a lot harder, gives you a lot of motivation that somebody that’s 8 years old on Twitter can tell me that I need to be shooting 1,000 jump shots instead of hanging out on my mom. It just lets you know what’ve you got behind you and how much this city loves ball.”
Shumpert has worked out with Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups, and he hopes his adjustment to playing with three dominant offensive players will come more quickly than Fields.’
“It makes me feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “In college I had a target on my back, now they’ve got the targets so I’m just coming in, I can relax a little more and I can just play my game. I can focus on the things I’m good at.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.