Landry Fields isn't bothered about leaving basketball-mad New York for hockey-crazed Toronto. The 24-year-old, 6-foot-7 guard and small forward, one of the Toronto Raptors' new acquisitions, has already figured out a strategy.
"I'm going to be right there with them," says the California native, who is starting his third NBA season, having played his first two with the New York Knicks.
"Hopefully, once the hockey lockout ends I will be right there banging on the glass. I think in the spirit of Canada and Toronto and the Maple Leafs, I gotta go and support [them]."
Fields and his team are in Halifax this week for a preseason training camp. Now, he is "in the bucket," conducting interviews while soaking his feet in a pail of ice water. His knees are wrapped in ice and plastic.
It was a rigorous practice Thursday and Fields says he's taking "preventative measures" to get rid of the swelling of his feet and all the lactic acid that has built up in his legs. This is in anticipation of a whale-watching expedition he and his teammates are planning for their one afternoon off from what has so far been an intense camp.
"It's been a couple of tough days on the body so we'll see how I feel. I'm about 50-50 right now but I think it will be exciting," he says about going out on the ocean in hopes of seeing whales.
The players return to the court Friday for two more practices, ending their week in Halifax on Saturday with an intrasquad game that is open to the public.
Basketball is popular in Halifax and throughout Nova Scotia. This is the fourth time the Raptors have had their training camp in the city. In past years, the team has travelled to other cities, including Ottawa, Kitchener, Ont., and Vancouver in an attempt to spread the brand and give the players a chance to bond as a team without the distractions of being at home.
Fields admits that he had never even heard of the Nova Scotia capital before he arrived this week.
"I had no idea it even existed, embarrassingly," he said.
Although Canadian geography may not be his strong suit, the Stanford University graduate is considered to be a "smart player" – the term comes up again and again when Raptors management describe his abilities.
"His basketball IQ is extremely good," says Ed Stefanski, executive vice-president of basketball operations. "In the game of basketball with five people, spacing is important, how to set up other people to get shots, where to be to get open to get your shot, he has all those ingredients."
Raptors coach Dwane Casey describes Fields as a guy "who knows what to do in every situation."
"We love him for his cutting, for his basketball IQ. He is one of those precious glue guys that you always want," Casey says.
Fields, who signed an offer sheet from the Raptors in the off-season, comes to the team after having had a difficult second year. His rookie year was outstanding (9.7 points a game, on average) but then he went into a slump in 2011-12 (8.8 points).
He acknowledges this, saying that he had a lot of "ups and downs" last season, citing personnel and coaching changes and trying to maintain his confidence.
"I am not trying to make excuses about it," he says. "It's just something I had to go through. I learned a lot from it so it kind of prepared me for my off-season training, for this training camp and going into this year."
He feels good about the new team and his teammates. Not only is he bonding over basketball but also politics, it seems.
On Wednesday night, he and a couple of his teammates stayed up to watch the first U.S. presidential debate. Although he previously supported President Barack Obama, he said he watched the debate "as objectively as possible" trying to "get the viewpoints form both candidates."
His mind is not yet made up for the November vote. But with a contract that is said to be worth $20-million (U.S.) over three years, Fields seems to have his mind made up about how he will perform this season.
"This team is more offensive driven in terms of moving the ball, sharing the ball so I think I'll thrive in an offence like this, hopefully," he says.
CASEY IN FAVOUR OF FLOPPING BAN
In hockey it's called diving – and players are sent to the penalty box for two minutes for faking a fall. In basketball, it's called "flopping" and coach Casey says "flagrant flopping" has no place in his game.
"A guy blows on you, he barely touches you and you go flying out – that's not a good basketball play," says Casey, responding to reporters here about the NBA's new rule to fine players who fall in a dramatic fashion to try to get referees to call fouls on other players. "I think it should clean up the game."
The fines will escalate from $5,000 (all currency U.S.) to a first offence to as much as $30,000 for a fifth violation. There could be suspensions depending on how often a player repeats the offence. The infractions will be called after the game, pending a video review, according to a report in The New York Times.
Casey says he doesn't have floppers on his team. "Again, I don't think we have a problem. I'm trying to get our guys to take charges. We don't have that problem."
He says if a player is in a proper position he can take the blow.
"It's a man's play, this is a man's league and that's what I try to sell more than anything else," Casey says.
It's the players who are afraid to take the hits that flop, he argues.
"I think that ruling is good and it will clean up the game," he adds. "I thought the league did a good job of making the rule."