FORT WAYNE – With 49 games down, including Friday’s 104-101 heartbreaker to Dakota, there is one more to go; and that comes tonight at Memorial Coliseum against the same Wizards.
Whether tonight’s game is the last the town will see of Ron Howard – the popular guard who has played in more games and scored more points than any player in the franchise’s five-year history – is still undecided.
Hours before Friday’s game, in which the Ants (13-36) lost an eight-point lead with less than a minute remaining, team president and general manager Jeff Potter hinted that there could be changes made for next season.
We need to start thinking, Who’s the next generation of players?’ Potter said. We’ve done that. We’ve found some good, young players here.
Darnell Lazare, the second-year all-star forward, Howard, Graham and Detroit Pistons property Vernon Macklin, who led the Ants with 25 points and 13 rebounds Friday, are among the survivors of a season-long revolving door of players – 28 in all. Lazare, Howard, rookie Cam Jones and guard Tory Jackson are the only ones left from the original roster.
I knew we weren’t going to make the playoffs, Potter said – a realization when the Ants lost all 10 games in February. I wanted to see different players. It’s unlikely we’ll see Lazare here again. He’s at a point where he’ll probably go overseas. Ron Howard is likely to go overseas in his life and career.
Tonight’s game will be Howard’s 163rd with the Ants. I try not to worry about it too much, Howard said. You never know where you’ll end up.
The 6-foot-9 Lazare, who had an early-December tryout in the Indiana Pacers’ camp, is also uncertain about what lies ahead.
After the season, I’ll sit down and talk to my agent and talk to the coaching staff and see what’s out there and see what’s happening, he said.
You look at (the season) and try to evaluate what’s going on; what have I not done and what am I doing; what’s prohibiting me from getting called up?
Personally I think I put myself in position to definitely be in the mix for (an NBA call-up), but for whatever reason it just didn’t go my way. At the same time, I think I helped my case as a professional player coming back here and just being part of the Mad Ants organization.
If, in fact, there is a new generation of Mad Ants, then Jones could be among them.
The 6-4 guard and the team’s first-round pick played in 43 games and averaged 14 points. He had 17 on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor Friday.
I like Fort Wayne a lot, Jones said.
There’s a strong possibility I’ll be back next year. (Potter) told me he wants me to come back, and I feel it’s the best for me.