FORT WAYNE – Eleven games remain in the regular season and even though the Mad Ants are atop the East Division, there’s not much room for error if they want to position themselves well for a championship run.
The Mad Ants’ winning percentage of .615 (24-15) is only slightly better than the .610 of division-rival Canton (25-16), and Fort Wayne is coming off one of its worst losses of the season, a 131-106 defeat Sunday at Maine.
The Mad Ants have chances for redemption tonight at Erie (13-27) and Friday at Delaware (11-31), before returning to Memorial Coliseum on Sunday to take on the 87ers.
As if the combined record of 24-58 for the BayHawks and 87ers wasn’t reason enough for optimism, the Mad Ants are 4-1 against those teams this season.
The Mad Ants have been led lately by rookie Jamaal Franklin, who is on assignment from the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies and has averaged 25 points over the last five games. The Mad Ants believe he’ll be here the rest of the season.
Jamaal has been great, absolutely great, Fort Wayne coach Conner Henry said. He’s a complete professional and works his butt off. The best thing about him is he’s unselfish. Often, NBA guys can come down and try to get theirs and not get theirs within the team framework and the flow, but he’s just been great.
The success of Franklin, a second-round NBA draft pick last year out of San Diego State, has helped ease the sting of not having Tony Mitchell.
Mitchell, the D-League’s Rookie of the Year last season, was called up to the Milwaukee Bucks last week and has gotten into his first three NBA games, making 3 of 5 shots for six points. His 10-day contract expires Friday. The Bucks can sign him to another one, but after two 10-day contracts they must sign him for the season or release him.
The D-League’s three division winners will make the playoffs, as will the next five teams based on record, so the Mad Ants are in good position to go to the postseason in back-to-back seasons. But winning the division is highly advantageous; the division winners get to select their first-round opponents from seeds 5 through 8.
Over the last five games, Ron Howard has averaged 22 points and Trey McKinney-Jones has averaged 20.