During Landry Fields’ five-year NBA career with the Knicks and Raptors, he identified his role and played it to perfection. Fields started 176 out of 255 games and averaged 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds, cementing his value as defensive hustle swingman who could fit alongside stars, and still hit occasional shots when needed. He found his niche at the professional level, but injuries derailed increased longevity.
“Something that is overblown in the basketball world is that the whole process is so instrumental in this thing. For anyone entering a new situation, there’s obviously that initial excitement that gets you in the door. The ‘what could be’ is always on your mind. That’s something we try and communicate to our players: you could be this type of player in the NBA right now. Often times, what’s most difficult about that process is when the vision is still intact, but the path of how you get there is a lot different,” Fields — now the Austin Spurs General Manager — said. “Your expectations are different. When you look at your journey to becoming anything, it’s always like that. Sometimes it’s two steps ahead, two back, going left or going right. Everyone is going to go through that valley where they fall down. It’s going to be tough, but you have to remember that it takes humility, hard work, and hunger. When you start to see some fruit of the labor and the results, that gives you the momentum to reach that ultimate goal.”
But alas, this isn’t a story about Fields’ playing days. Of course, he has that experience and credibility. He can relate to players to a degree, most importantly, sharing that everyone’s path is different and achieving one’s goals often requires that you encounter twists and turns while enduring bumps and bruises. Now in his new role as an NBA G League executive, it’s up to him to help such prospects navigate through it all.
“I like to consider myself one with a developmental mindset. That doesn’t just apply to my job or the G League, but who I am as a person. That’s how I operate. I don’t just love player potential, but human potential and seeing it to its fullest potential,” he said. “I love empowering and helping players build a vision with our staff, and then leveraging all the resources I can. I’m absolutely still learning how to do that, but personally, it’s always been something I’ve gravitated towards, becoming and optimizing.”
“There’s going to be a pathway that you’re not going to expect. There are things that come along that you can’t see unless you go through it. But the beauty of our staff is we know what it’s going to be like and we just want to partner with the players to help them get to where you want to be.”
Such resiliency, awareness, and perseverance is all key in who Fields and Austin (and the Spurs organization as a whole) target in talent to highlight their roster and the culture they look to maintain.
“It depends on how much humility you come in with, and in the Spurs’ organization, that’s a pillar of what we are looking for when we bring in any player or staff member,” Fields shared. “I could give you a map, but we’re all still battling ego. When the narrative changes, there’s a lot of resistance. We spend a lot of time with players to help and make sure they understand that everything they’ve ever gone through has come with challenges and this is no different.”
Development in Austin is crucial to the success in San Antonio. Derrick White won the NBA G League championship as a minor league assignee in 2017. Lonnie Walker IV averaged 16.6 points through 28 games with Austin last season and is now a key role player in San Antonio. Rookies Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic can only hope to follow in his footsteps as they spend a great deal of time on assignment this season. The list goes on, as players like Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes have also spent time in Austin.
The cohesion between the two squads continues and Fields has seen that first hand.
It’s been a learning process for me. There are a lot of things you don’t know as you enter a new field or job responsibilities. There’s the roster construction, the communication with agents, players, and staff. There’s a lot of back and forth communication between San Antonio and Austin,” he said. “I live in San Antonio and still have day-to-day duties and a lot of collegiate scouting. Getting a grasp of the nuances, from NBA G League rules, to what you can and can’t do when making a team, you absorb them over time. The staff that’s been put around me has been excellent, from Assistant GM Tyler Self and head coach Blake Ahearn and his staff, they’ve been very helpful.”
Fields has had an eye-opening experience through his recent time as a scout and executive.
“This side of basketball is a lot different. The mental muscles that you’re working are a lot different than the ones you’re working on as a player. I’ve humbled myself to understand that I hadn’t done this before. I’ve leaned on people in the organization, from RC to Brian Wright, to some of my mentors — Chris Grant and Brent Barry, Dave Telup, George Felton — I could go on and on. That’s put a lot of things in perspective,” he pointed out. “You see the hard work that goes into the draft, free agency and the meetings, phone calls, and conversations that go into this. There is so much going on behind the scenes that had to go right for me to be an NBA player that I never could have seen. Sometimes I wish players could see the amount of work that goes into it. It’s gratifying to know your hard work is paying off, but there’s so much that goes into it behind the scenes. I’ve seen it first and foremost now. You don’t realize how lucky you can be. There’s a lot of things outside of you that have to go your way to get where you need to go.”
Fields’ mentality helps him fit with San Antonio and his contributions add to the positive culture. As he simultaneously continues to learn and share, however, there’s one person with an intimate NBA G League perspective whose brain he can pick: his cousin Cameron Jones, who won NBA G League Most Improved Player in 2013.
“He’s been playing in Finland and I’m so happy for him. I tell him, once you hang them up, life changes. It’s a weird shift,” Fields said. “To see the amount of time and resiliency that he had to put in has helped me understand the players a little bit more. I can’t empathize with that lifestyle. When Cameron tells me how it is, hopefully, I can implement that into my relationship with the players. As a manager, if there’s something I don’t know, I can always connect players to Cameron.”