Landry Fields didn't look at being matched up against Ray Allen for a few stretches of the second half last night's preseason game against the Celtics as an opportunity or a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He took it as a challenge.

"I didn't want him to score on me," Fields said of Allen, who had 11 of his 24 points in the second half.

There is very little that Fields has done so far that would resemble a rookie, let alone a second-round pick that none of the draft experts ever mentioned as someone who might get their name called on draft night. The 6-7 shooting guard is very comfortable here and at this point in the preseason it's not a matter of whether he'll make the final roster, it's now about whether he'll crack the rotation.

Mike D'Antoni, in fact, said after practice today that Fields might even get the start in Saturday's game against the Celtics in Hartford, Conn.

"Could be," D'Antoni said. "I'm thinking about it."

D'Antoni will likely sit Amar'e Stoudemire on Saturday and move Wilson Chandler to the power forward spot next to Timofey Mozgov. Fields and Bill Walker are two players D'Antoni wants to see in that two spot, where Chandler has been used to date. Walker injured his left ankle in the second half last night and will be re-evaluated on Friday.

Fields, with a typical laid-back California personality, seems not at all surprised by his seemingly quick assimilation to the NBA game. He feels he belongs here.

"Yeah, I worked hard to get where I'm at now, so it's definitely a mentality that I have to have," Fields said, "that I know I belong.

D'Antoni has been quite pleased with Fields and said of the 22-year-old rookie, "The thing he's going to give you is smarts and an incredible motor. He goes . . . We want to keep exploring what he can do."

How that will sit with other players, such as veteran Roger Mason, is always a concern. But D'Antoni doesn't believe he'll have the same issues with this group that he had over the last two seasons when it comes to playing time and rotation spots.

"As long as everybody knows we're just experimenting and everything, it's cool," D'Antoni said. "We had a lot of eggshells we had to walk on [the last two years]. Now we're just trying to get the team right and they understand that. Whatever their role is, hopefully, they'll buy into it."


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* - After a film session, the team held a brief workout today that involved mainly some shooting, but not much else. They practice tomorrow before beginning a stretch of five games in seven days, with two back-to-backs, starting this weekend against the Celtics (in Hartford) on Saturday and the Wizards at the Garden on Sunday.

* - Amar'e Stoudemire is OK with taking a game off in the preseason and declared himself to be "in the best shape of my life right now." When asked if he thinks he could put up career-best numbers, the man who goes by the nickname, STAT replied, "I think the main goal is to put up the W's. That's most important."

* - D'Antoni acknowledged that 21-year-old Anthony Randolph, the subject of our previous blog, was, in fact, "a project" and added, "It's not something that maybe happens tomorrow. It might be something that happens over a month, two months or a year. He's 21 years old. We can't lose sight of that."

D'Antoni envisions Randolph being "a stat magnet," he said. "He should go on the floor and have three blocks, five rebounds, get to the line three times, have two dunks and when he comes out he only played five minutes and you go, 'Whoa, look at that!' Then he goes to seven minutes and then to 10 minutes. He has to have so much energy that he's changing the game."