Sat, Feb 18, 2012 - Page 19 News List

LINSANITY: Lin’s rapid rise elevates play of friend Fields

NY Times News Service, NEW YORK

The New York Knicks’ Landry Fields, center, slams down an alley-oop from teammate Jeremy Lin during their game against the Sacramento Kings in New York on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

It is somewhat unfortunate that, in the growing canon of Jeremy Lin lore, Landry Fields is best known for supplying a couch.

Since joining the New York Knicks in late December, Lin has slept most nights at his brother’s apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. However, the night before he streaked into stardom, with a 25-point game against the New Jersey Nets, Lin crashed at Fields’ place in White Plains.

It instantly became a running gag: That Lin owed his success to Fields’ furniture. Fields even posted a photo of the serendipitous sofa on Twitter.

However, Fields’ role in Lin’s emergence and the Knicks’ resurgence runs much deeper than those couch cushions. No one in the locker room is closer to Lin, or has provided more support, personally and professionally.

The two have been friends since Fields was starring at Stanford, not far from where Lin lived in Palo Alto. They share a deep religious faith, prestigious schooling (Lin at Harvard) and a quirky sensibility. Their creative pregame handshake has become as much a part of the Lin variety show as the alley-oop passes and scoring bursts.

“Their chemistry is great,” the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler said. “I think just the comfort of having a friend, somebody that you’re really close with on the team. The NBA is a long season and those times when you feel down and all that kind of stuff, they’re good for each other.”

Not incidentally, Fields has also been playing some of his best basketball during the Knicks’ seven-game winning streak, averaging 10.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while shooting 50 percent from the field. He is a frequent recipient of Lin’s lobs and a steadying presence in the backcourt.

“We talk a lot out there,” Fields said. “We talk when we’re not on the court, when we’re on the court. If I see something, I’ll tell him, like: ‘Hey, you can find me here,’ and vice versa. When that happens, we usually capitalize on it the next trip down.”

Lin’s emergence as the Knicks’ starting point guard has, as coach Mike D’Antoni often says, put everyone in his proper role. Iman Shumpert, Jared Jeffries and Steve Novak have flourished since Lin began running the offense. Chandler has become a greater offensive force.

And Fields again looks like the player who energized the Knicks early last season before he got lost in the haze of the Carmelo Anthony trade.

Fields is not the prototypical NBA shooting guard. He does not score in bunches or take defenders off the dribble and slash to the basket. He is a rhythm player who is at his best when the ball is moving and the offense is flowing, allowing him to take advantage of open shots and off-balance defenders.

Fields started to find his groove before Lin’s streak began. He averaged 13.6 points and shot 53.7 percent during 10 games from Jan. 18 through Feb. 3, after averaging 7.2 points and shooting 42 percent in the first 13 games of the season.

With Lin directing the offense, Fields has settled into a steady supporting role, hitting open jumpers and scoring on backdoor cuts. His production, in turn, has given Lin a familiar friend to lean on.

The Knicks’ two uber-educated starting guards first connected during summer pickup games at Stanford.

“They always needed extra guys to play,” Lin said. “[Fields] was kind of the guy that I would always contact.”

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