NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim spoke highly of the relationship between Fort Wayne and the city's G League team, the Mad Ants, on Tuesday morning while standing on the team's court at Memorial Coliseum.
Abdur-Rahim was adamant that the ties between the Summit City and the NBA's developmental league are strong.
“Obviously, Indiana is basketball,” Abdur-Rahim said. “The folks here are passionate about basketball. But in addition to that, I think it's about community. Community is part of Fort Wayne and at the fabric of Fort Wayne.
“You have the connection with the Pacers, that is a tradition now here in the city, the Mad Ants that are a tradition and combining that – community, Pacers, basketball – I think it's just a great combination of really bringing folks together.”
The league president made his remarks while attending the Mad Ants' Breakfast, Business and Basketball event, a chance for fans to meet and hear from some important figures connected to the Mad Ants. Also in attendance at the event were Peter Dinwiddie, the Indiana Pacers executive vice president of basketball operations, and Tim Bawmann, the Mad Ants' president.
Abdur-Rahim painted a picture of the G League as a testing ground for the NBA in more ways than one. He pointed out that as many as half of NBA players are spending time in the G League, making it a crucial developmental arena for the parent league.
It also provides an opportunity for players to skirt the NBA's 19-year-old age limit. Since late 2018, 18-year-old players have been eligible to forgo college and play a year in the G League before potentially jumping to the NBA.
“We're seeing more and more young people over the last couple of years making decisions to maybe not go to college,” Abdur-Rahim said. “From a G League standpoint, if a young person doesn't want to go to college, we should have an opportunity for them to not only grow and develop as basketball players, but develop as people.”
The league president, a 13-year NBA veteran and an All-Star in 2002, also discussed the G League's role as a laboratory for potential rules changes in the NBA.
One of the new rules the minor league has adopted for the 2019-20 season will have players only take one free throw per trip to the foul line.
That single free throw will be worth one, two or three points, depending on how many shots a player would traditionally have taken in a given situation. Abdur-Rahim said the rule is a way to try to speed up pace of play.
“You come to a game at 7 o'clock, being able to get out of the game by 9 o'clock and get home,” the president said of the rule's value. “We know fans don't love sitting and watching the process of taking a free throw.”
The Mad Ants season begins Nov. 8 and Bawmann believes the team has assembled a roster that can compete for a G League championship.
That belief comes with the Pacers' blessing.
“Our marching orders this year are (the Pacers) want us to win,” the Mad Ants president said. “The last couple of years it's been about development. ... But this year they want us to win for the community.”