Clap Clap ClapClapClap: An Ode to Levance Fields
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 27, 2009
I doubt I’ll ever become as enamored with March Madness as most sports nuts out there. Oh, sure, I’ll fill out my brackets, based on a combination of baseless hunches, arbitrary geographical biases and (hopefully) self-fulfilling prophecies. And I’ll watch the games, at least until I can tell which team is obviously the better one and/or until it becomes clear that there’ll be no memorable last-second histrionics that I’ll want to bang my head against the wall for missing (like, say, the buzzer-beating game-tying three that Mario Chalmers hit against Memphis last year after I fell asleep with about five minutes to go). But generally speaking, a combination of not knowing enough about the teams, not being impressed with the level of play, and not having any sort of noteable rootng interest beyond those self-fulfilling prophecies, means that I’d almost always rather just flip to whatever NBA game is going on that night. The exception to this is when there’s a player in the tournament worth cheeing for, a wildcard so captivating that the rest of the drama becomes a mere subplot. Last year, that player was Stephen Curry. This year, it very well might be Levance Fields.
The two players, simply put, have absolutely nothing in common. Curry was an absolute marvel, a baby-faced assassin that seemed to be able to will his shots in from anywhere on the court, and put up 35-point games against the best defenses in the country just because it was his time. This year, despite his Davidson team missing the tournament for a variety of reasons, Curry still led the nation in scoring, was an early player of the year candidate, and ignited a nationwide debate over whether or not he’d ever be a pro-level player. No one will ever argue over the star pro potential of Levance Fields. Frankly, I’d find it somewhat remarkable if the Pitt point guard ever played a minute in the pros. What’s more, I’m not even all that sure he’s that great a college player–sure, he averages a Rondo-esque 10.6 points and 7.6 assists per game, but watcing the guy play, he never seems to make good decisions, and those that he does make seem a result of kismet or karma or just inevitability. Levance Fields does not seem like he should be a player of consequence in this tournament.
But I have never seen a player like Fields before in my life. And I mean that in a very literal sense–the dude just looks like no one else in sports. Basically, he’s a fat point guard, which seems a contradiction along the line of being a skinny linebacker, a midget center or a long-distance runner with a leg cramp. Not to mention the fact that he looks like a total stoner–droopy eyes, braided hair, hangdog demeanor. I mean, look at him up there–does he look like he should be acting as a floor general for a championship-contending team, or does he look like he should be choosing between combo meals at Wendy’s? I’ve been silently backing Pitt since I watched them unravel UConn earlier in the year, largely because I think DeJuan Blair is such an absolute beast (and find his crazed post-play infinitely more impressive than the mechanical efficiency of Hasheem Thabeet), but I think the incredulity of Fields’s presence was alway a subconscious factor. People say that Pitt never “win pretty,” and with a physial anomaly like Levance at the helm, that’s true in the very truest sense. And it is, perversely, a rather beautiful thing to watch.
Tonight’s game againt Xavier absolutely cemented my Fields obsession. For the third straight game, Pitt seemed dogged the entire game, grinding out what was either going to be an extremely disappointing loss or an only minorly encouraging victory. Down two with under a minute to go and the shot clock starting to run low, Fields pulled up for a top-of-the-arc three–a well-behind-the-arc top-of-the-arc three at that. I chortled as it went up–Fields had been bricking better looks from long range all game, and a wasted possession here likely meant the end of the game for Pitt. If Fields had put it up on a catch-and-shoot with the team down three and .6 seconds to go, I probably still would’ve thought “yikes, was that really the best play they could come up with?” Talking about the play after the game, Fields took credit for making a move to get enough separation to get the shot off, and I wanted to scream at the TV, “Of course you had enough separation to get the shot off! They’d have given it to you wide open if you had asked!” In fact, in the scouting report on Fields, it probably says in big caps with a circle around it, “TRICK INTO TAKING TOP-OF-THE-ARC DESPERATION THREES.”
Of course, it ended up going in, and then on the next play, Fields nabbed a loose ball and drove for a layup, all but sealing a Pitt victory. “GUTSY!” yelled Bill Raftery. “Can you imagine the courage?” (Never mind that had he missed, that almost certainly would’ve been a “WHAT…was Levance Fields thinking with that shot?” comment instead). “I never get tired of waching Levance take big shots,” quipped coach Jamie Nixon after the game (Never mind that had he missed, he would’ve needed a restraining order and numerous fire marshalls to keep himself from strangling Fields at the next timeout). For my money, the most accurate comment on the situaion came from Xavier coach Sean Miller: “I thought the shot that Levance Fields hit kinda says it all about [their] point guard,” Indeed, it’s unlikely you’ll see a play the rest of the tournament that better summarizes Levance–or Pitt on the whole, I suppose–than that one. Ugly, illogical, and downright stupifying, but somehow, so so right.
Here’s hoping that Fields and Pitt wins un-pretty all the way to Detroit. Even though I think I have them going down to UNC in the Final Four. Nuts, another lost bracket.