The Journal Gazette
Thursday, June 04, 2020 5:30 pm

Remainder of Mad Ants' G League season canceled

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The G League has canceled the remainder of the season, after 12 weeks of silence.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim said today. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season. And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Mad Ants, who had seven games left on their regular-season slate, were among the last G League teams to play. They defeated the Grand Rapids Drive 111-103 in Michigan on March 11, just before the NBA’s developmental circuit halted action in the early morning hours of March 12.

Players had since dispersed to their hometowns amid COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, though those on NBA contracts have been working out with their parent teams at NBA facilities lately.

A statement from The Mad Ants reads: “While we are disappointed we couldn’t finish the season and make a run at the championship, we enjoyed a record-setting season with great fan support and several sellouts. We thank the Fort Wayne community, our partners, and season-ticket holders and our fans!”

Naz Mitrou-Long and Brian Bowen II, who were splitting time between the Mad Ants and Indiana Pacers, will continue to practice in Indianapolis in preparation of the NBA’s restart with only 22 teams. The NBA’s plan to start playing July 31 was approved today.

The Pacers’ Alize Johnson, Goga Bitadze, Edmond Sumner and JaKarr Sampson, who had appeared in Fort Wayne games, will also see their seasons continue.

Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey, who led Fort Wayne to a 21-22 record in the final season of his contract, will assist the Pacers, as he annually does once his G League season is completed. The Pacers’ president of basketball operations, Kevin Pritchard, praised the work of Gansey and Mad Ants general manager Brian Levy in an April interview.

Fort Wayne was vying to become the first G League team to start a season as poorly as 0-6 and make the postseason.

The Mad Ants won four of their last seven games and were on a three-game winning streak that put them in fourth place in the Central Division. They were only one game out of the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot.

By comparison, the Komets’ hockey season was suspended March 12 and canceled March 14, giving more expedient closure to fans of Memorial Coliseum’s major sport tenant. The Komets’ league, the ECHL, is hoping to begin next season on time – Oct. 16 at Indianapolis. There has been no determination yet when G League play will resume, though the Mad Ants’ lease with Memorial Coliseum expires this summer.

From a business standpoint, the good news for the Mad Ants is that they lost only two regular-season home games because of COVID-19. The postseason would have had a single-elimination tournament with a best-of-3 final, so the odds were against Fort Wayne having playoff games at the Coliseum.

Walt Lemon Jr. led the Mad Ants with an average of 20.3 points, 6.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 39 games. Johnson, who played in 19 G League games, had 20.1 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Bowen averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds over 29 games. He exhausted his 45 days in the NBA; under normal circumstances he’d have to have his contract converted to a one-way to continue play with the Pacers.

Fort Wayne-native D.J. McCall was a rookie on the team, which featured the likes of Stephan Hicks, Ben Moore, C.J. Wilcox, JaKeenan Gant and Daxter Miles Jr.

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