BOSTON -- Mike D'Antoni seems to think he may have plugged that hole at the shooting guard position with rookie Landry Fields. When I asked D'Antoni after practice today how long he thinks he can go with the second round pick at the 2, he replied, "All year."
Then he added, "I'd be surprised if he can't do it."
Fields had a solid debut with 11 points in 29:50 against the Raptors. He said he "was happy with it" but, "I didn't want to make too much out of it."
He didn't want to get too worked up about facing all-star Ray Allen here tomorrow night, either. It's one thing to go head-to-head against a second-year guy in DeMar DeRozan, whom Fields has seen before in the Pac-10. But Jesus H. Shuttlesworth? On the Gah-den pah-kaaay? Surely that has to conjure a little anxiety.
"I haven't even thought about it," Fields replied. "I'm really not feeling any anxiety about tomorrow. I guess the closer we get to it, maybe a little bit. But I'm good right now."
Damn California kid and your laid-back approach. Don't you realize you're facing a future Hall of Famer who absolutely lit up the Miami Heat on opening night? Don't you know he's the guy who torched your idol, Kobe Bryant, in Game 2 of the NBA Finals with a record-setting eight three-pointers? Haven't you seen him run off screens? Or better yet, haven't you seen the thugs he's got setting those screens? Don't you know what can happen when you try to get through those screens?
*Dennis Hopper voice* Bad things, man.
"You guys say, like, 'stars of the NBA'," Fields then said, perhaps wondering why my eyes were bugging out and also noticing a twitch while I nervously raked my hand across my hair. "I try not to put him in that class, just because if you start doing that you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I'm just going in there like it's just another game, just another guy.
"He's only human. Gets dressed the same way I do. That's kind of my mentality about it all."
It's a reasonable perspective, but let's see where it stands after he's faced the firing squad that also includes Brandon Roy (Saturday) and Vince Carter (Tuesday) over the next few games. If he comes out of this alive, the Knicks might really have something here.
D'Antoni seems convinced. "His consistency on all the details of the game is what makes him unique," he said. "Usually with a rookie, you don't have that. It takes a while to learn."
It usually does take a while, especially for a second round pick that wasn't on anyone's draft board. While Rodney Heard, the Knicks' director of East Coast scouting, is getting all the attention for his alleged draft transgressions, let's recognize Mark Hughes, the West Coast scouting director, for coming up with Fields.
Will Fields fill the gap well enough for the Knicks? It remains to be seen, but right now one would think the team would benefit by adding a veteran who can score at that position. The Knicks will see Rudy Fernandez on Saturday when they face the Trail Blazers and, as much as Fernandez wants to play in New York, that might be the closest he gets this season. The Blazers traded Jerryd Bayless to New Orleans before the season to create some room in the backcourt so Fernandez can get more minutes. Despite public trade requests by the Spanish star's agent -- which both times resulted in fines by the NBA -- the Blazers appear to have no interest in moving him.
Another player who would fit perfectly here would be former Knick Jamal Crawford, who is in the final year of his contract. But despite the fact that the Hawks won't engage in contract extension talks with the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, they also are not looking to deal him, either.
Meanwhile, the player originally slated for the starting two-guard spot, Kelenna Azubuike, participated in some light shooting and controlled movement workouts after practice here today. On Wednesday, D'Antoni said Azubuike is "progressing, but he's not ready yet" and stressed that, considering the severity of his injury (torn patella tendon), "for his future, at 25 years old, we want him to be 110 percent ready to play. We'd be crazy to rush him back."
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* - Eddy Curry (hamstring) also participated in the post-practice workout with Azubuike. D'Antoni said Curry could be cleared to practice Monday. But with Timofey Mozgov and Ronny Turiaf in the rotation, Curry has little chance to see game action.
* - Shawne Williams was burying perimeter shots in a post-practice three-on-three game, in which he matched up against the 7-1 Mozgov. Williams made the team ahead of fan-favorite Patrick Ewing Jr. It was a decision that wasn't easy, emotionally, for the coaching staff to make, but the feeling was that Williams was more of an NBA-ready player at this point.
* - Turiaf said he was fine after taking an errant elbow from David Andersen to his right jaw during Wednesday's game. He also said he planned to keep growing out his trademark beard, which is making him resemble the genie from the Disney movie,Aladdin.