Just how good is Landry Fields?

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There’s no doubt that Amar’e Stoudemire’s play during the Knicks’ winning streak has been incredible. Raymond Felton has been amazing as well. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are doing a wonderful job of keeping the floor spaced and giving Felton and Stoudemire room to work the pick-and-roll.

It’s certainly surprising that Amar’e is playing at an MVP level without Steve Nash, that Felton is finally playing like a top-5 pick, and that Wilson Chandler has become a three-point marksman. But the biggest surprise in New York this season has to be second-round rookie Landry Fields emerging as the Knicks’ starting shooting guard and the team’s unofficial glue guy.

Fields’ conventional numbers aren’t incredible — through 25 games, the 22-year old Stanford product is averaging 10.6 points and 1.8 assists. But Fields has already proven himself to be one of the most efficient and versatile guards in basketball, and Mike D’Antoni has been relying on Landry to make his rotations work.

Mike D’Antoni’s teams have always thrived by creating mismatches on the offensive end, and that’s what everyone focuses on. But without versatile players like Shawn Marion, whose ability to guard multiple positions was crucial to the Suns, and Fields, who has been wearing a number of hats for the Knicks, “seven seconds or less” falls apart.

No center in the league can stay in front of Amar’e, and Gallinari’s ballhandling and three-point range make him a nightmare cover for any power forward. However, both Amar’e and Danilo have some issues with rebounding and defense, and that’s where players like Fields and Chandler come in. Fields is the best rebounding guard in the league, and the Knicks need every one of those rebounds. Chandler’s “rebound rate” of 14.0 is easily leads all other guards in the NBA, and Dominic McGuire is the only small forward with a better rebound rate than Fields. Given that Danilo Gallinari is dead-last among power forwards in rebound rate and Stoudemire’s rebound rate is the exact same as Fields’, it’s a good thing that Fields is such a prodigious rebounder. (If ‘tweener forward Wilson Chandler is considered the Knicks’ de facto power forward his rebound rate would be 61st out of 73 qualified power forwards.)

Fields has also shown an amazing ability to take and convert high-percentage shots. Almost half of Fields’ field-goal attempts come from the immediate basket area, and he makes 75% of his shots at the rim That’s an incredibly high mark for anybody, let alone someone who wasn’t considered a great athlete coming into the NBA. Fields isn’t a leaper, but he knows how to use his body to protect the ball when he goes to the basket, and that’s far more important. Again, Gallinari doesn’t get many baskets at the rim, so Fields’ relentless forays to the basket give the Knicks’ offense some much-needed balance. “Stretch fours” can be very helpful, but teams still need points in the paint.

Because of Fields’ rebounding, scoring efficiency, and ability to guard multiple positions, he’s been a perfect fit with the Knicks and an indispensable part of their rotation, and the +/- numbers reflect that. When Fields in on the court, the Knicks outscore their opponents by an average of 7.13 points per 100 possessions. When he sits, the Knicks get outscored by an average of 5.21 points. That’s a 12.34 net +/-, easily the best mark for any Knick.

Is Landry Fields as good as Amar’e Stoudemire? Of course not. Should he be in the rookie of the year conversation? Not as long as Blake Griffin continues his campaign against rims. But he’s playing a key role on a good team a few months after being drafted with the 39th pick, and that’s pretty impressive.

Raptors hire Spurs video coordinator, who just happens to be Kawhi Leonard friend

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Jeremy Castleberry played his high school ball in Riverside, California, on the same team as Kawhi Leonard. When Leonard went on to San Diego State for college, Castleberry went too and was a walk-on for that team.

When the Spurs drafted Leonard, it was not long before Castleberry was a video coordinator and on the staff in San Antonio. Now Leonard is a Raptor so… you know what’s coming. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN explained it well.

The Toronto Raptors are hiring San Antonio Spurs staffer Jeremy Castleberry — a close friend of Kawhi Leonard — to a position on their coaching staff, league sources told ESPN.

Castleberry has worked with Leonard as a Spurs staffer and played with Leonard in high school and at San Diego State, where he was a walk-on.

Is this alone going to keep Leonard a Raptor next summer when he’s a free agent? No. But this is how the game is played — make the star player you’re recruiting feel comfortable, wanted, a key part of everything. Bringing in a friend to a new city for him fits right into that plan.

The smart money is still on Leonard bolting next summer to go to Los Angeles, but if the Raptors are able to change his mind — ala Paul George — it will not be one big thing but a thousand little ones. And a lot of wins. But hiring Castleberry is a start.

Brandon Jennings signs to play in Russia next season

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Brandon Jennings has just never been the same since his 2015 torn Achilles. He hasn’t shot over 40 percent from the floor for a season since then, he hasn’t moved well defensivly, and he had a PER of 19.3 the season it was torn and it’s never been above 13.7 for a season since then. In the past couple of seasons he has played in the G-League and China, and he played 14 games at the end of the season for the Bucks last campaign.

This summer, there were no offers. He is now headed to Russia, according to multiple reports, including EuroHoops.net. He will play for Zenit St Petersburg.

He’s only 28 years old, there is time for him find a way to make his game fit into the NBA landscape again. He’s just not there yet, and maybe the opportunity in Russia will lead him there. If not, he’s still getting paid to play at a high level.

Some owners reportedly want access to mental health files of players

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If you read one thing NBA related today, it should be the first installment of Jackie MacMullan’s brilliant series at ESPN on the mental health of players and staffs in the NBA, and how the league is handling it. MacMullan not only got Kevin Love and Paul Pierce to open up about their challenges, but she also got into the challenges the league faces in confronting this issue head-on.

One such challenge: Owners wanting access to players mental health “files.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, players union executive director Michelle Roberts and their respective teams are reportedly working on a new mental health policy for the league. Privacy is going to be a big part of that. From MacMullan:

Yet there remain many obstacles to confront, chief among them the stigma attached to mental health that prompts many players to suffer in silence. The union also insists that mental health treatment be confidential, but some NBA owners, who in some cases are paying their players hundreds of millions of dollars, want access to the files of their “investments.” That is not, however, the league’s position. “The NBA fully supports protecting the confidentiality of players’ mental health information and, accordingly, committed to the players association that any mental health program we undertake would do so,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass says.

Confidentiality, says Love, has to be non-negotiable. Without it, he says, he never would have become comfortable enough to announce from that All-Star dais that he was seeking treatment.

Those files must be private. This is different from a torn knee ligament or sprained ankle (and on those we have HIPPA laws for good reason). For one, this is something more unpredictable in treating. Second, it comes back to the stigma of mental health issues and how the information about them might be used.

That stigma still exists, both in society and the NBA — McMullan gets into the players and their wives talking behind Love’s back All-Star weekend, and the players currently seeking treatment who do not want it public. The “real men don’t talk about this” mentality is everywhere, but it has fertile ground in professional sports locker rooms where players see themselves as invincible.

That mentality, that stigma will be the hardest thing to change in altering the culture of mental health issues in the NBA. There are no easy answers here. Does anyone think the owners who want access to those files wouldn’t use against the player in negotiations (never underestimate an owner’s effort to gain leverage)?

The players’ union will not allow that in whatever the framework is for the leagues’ new mental health policy. Nor should they.

Love, DeMar DeRozan, Royce White and others broke barriers stepping forward into the spotlight to discuss their challenges. But there are a lot of barriers still up, and a lot of work for both the NBA and society to do on this front. And privacy must be part of that.

Rebuilding Hawks add depth by signing Daniel Hamilton, Alex Poythress.

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ATLANTA (AP) — The rebuilding Atlanta Hawks have added depth by signing guard-forward Daniel Hamilton and forward Alex Poythress.

Poythress was signed to a two-way contract, so the former Kentucky player will split his time with the Hawks’ G League Erie team.

Hamilton is on a fully guaranteed one-year contract after impressing the Hawks playing for the Thunder Summer League team. He averaged 2 points in six games with Oklahoma City last season while on a two-way contract with the Thunder. He spent most of the season with the G League Oklahoma City Blue.

Poythress averaged 1 point in 25 games with Indiana last season. He began the season on a two-way contract.