John Fields' antics get Slingers roaring

Fields' antics get Slingers roaring
Singapore Slingers' John Fields not only leads the team in points and rebounds but is also the leader in firing up the players ahead of Game 1 of their semi-final play-offs against Hong Kong Eastern at the OCBC Arena tonight. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

American centre's passionate displays will be crucial to team's semi-final hopes against Eastern

Before every game, the Singapore Slingers will huddle in a circle for a team talk before performing their pre-game ritual designed to channel their aggression for the match and also focus their minds.

At the centre, both literally and metaphorically, of this is American John Fields, who usually stands in the middle and leads the routine.

"Getting together like this to play around, it relaxes everybody before we go out and play," he said.

"We're close and real goofy. Getting everyone hyped, that's my role because I play the game with a lot of emotion and I want to win."

It is hard not to notice the 2.06m Fields who, in his first Asean Basketball League (ABL) season with the Slingers, has a team-leading average score of 22.4 points and rebounds (12.5) per game.

The 31-year-old is often the most demonstrative player on court, waving at the crowd after a big dunk and shouting encouragement at his teammates.

"I love the game and I play with passion. Sometimes I'm misunderstood, but that's just who I am and I'm not going to change."

His presence will be key as the Slingers host Hong Kong Eastern in Game 1 of the play-offs semi-finals at the OCBC Arena tonight. Game 2 is on Wednesday in Hong Kong and Game 3, if needed, will be in Singapore on April 21.

Slingers guard Xavier Alexander said fellow American Fields has given the team a boost.

He said: "With someone like John, you just have to let him go. His antics get the crowd going and they get us going too when we need it.

"Sometimes you have to tell him to relax but, for the most part, that's what gets him going and that's his game.

"He's strong inside and he's also expanding his game by hitting mid-range jump shots. He's a veteran player and he knows exactly what to do to help the team win."

Fields' temperament has its downsides though, said coach Neo Beng Siang.

In Game 1 of the quarter-finals against Macau Black Bears, Fields picked up a late technical foul for appearing to taunt the opponents by putting his hands on his ears.

SLINGERS' TALISMAN

With someone like John, you just have to let him go. His antics get the crowd going and they get us going too when we need it.

XAVIER ALEXANDER, Slingers forward, on teammate John Fields' antics.

Alexander explained it was a misunderstanding and that the gesture was directed at him, not the opponents.

But Neo said: "It affects the whole team's performance if someone picks up a foul.

"The three (foreign) imports are very important because if they get into foul trouble, I have to bring him out and it's really tough to have a local defend an import."

Despite finishing seventh in the regular season of the 10-team ABL, Eastern (champions in 2016-17) showed their calibre by eliminating defending champions Alab Pilipinas in the quarter-finals.

The Slingers lost both regular season games to Eastern by three and seven points respectively, but Fields was confident his team can reach their third ABL finals.

He said: "We have to contain (imports O'Darien) Bassett and (Marcus) Elliott on their dribbles and also limit their locals because their locals can really step up with key big shots.

"We've got a good chance of making the finals and we just have to focus.

"We traditionally win by playing great defence so first we have to do that, then make some great plays and shots on offence."


S'PORE SLINGERS v HK EASTERN

OCBC Arena. StarHub Ch202, 8pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2019, with the headline 'Fields' antics get Slingers roaring'. Print Edition | Subscribe