Ron Howard deserves points for perseverance, but maybe it's time he earned some pay for it, too.
Howard, the Mad Ants' all-time leading scorer, signed a free-agent contract with the Indiana Pacers that will take him to his fourth NBA training camp. He knows what he's up against to make one of those final Pacers roster spots, but he also knows what to expect.
He has been in two training camps with the Milwaukee Bucks and one with the New York Knicks during his pro career.
“It does help to know what to expect having gone through it a couple times,” Howard said. “The first time I went through it, my nerves were about to explode. It helps to be more calm and much more confident coming into something like this. It definitely helps.”
Howard, 30, had his best NBA Development League season in 2012-13 as he switched to point guard after years of playing the 2-guard or small forward spot. The move didn't hurt his scoring, as he averaged 19.1 points per game. But his assists increased to a career-best 4.7 per game.
The Pacers used the Mad Ants extensively, sending Orlando Johnson and Miles Plumlee to the team for seasoning. In the process, the Pacers got a closer look at Howard.
Howard also played for the NBA D-League's Select Team in the NBA Summer League, getting more exposure with scouts.
Howard credits former Mad Ants coach and assistant Steve Gansey with helping him switch to the point and thrive last season.
“I'm grateful for them to have the confidence in me to allow me to be the full-time starting point guard, as well as the work they did with me mentally on the game,” Howard said. “It was a great year for us as a franchise, as well as me individually. I give a lot of credit to those guys for my preparation and the mental aspect of the game as they helped me to continue to progress in my career.”
Howard played at Valparaiso University and initially was signed by the Mad Ants after playing well in an open tryout situation. He has since spent parts of all six seasons with the Ants, earning All-Star status and filling up the team's record book. He helped the Ants to their first playoff appearance last season.
Howard has been working out with the Pacers for a week and will compete for a roster spot during training camp, which opens later this month.
“They have wonderful coaches and it's been really fun to get to know these guys,” Howard said. “I pick their brains and get pointers and things like that. I'm looking forward to getting to camp and learning more.”
His age might mean this could be his last chance at making an NBA roster, but even if he doesn't stick, there's a chance he could earn a midseason call-up.
“This is a great opportunity for me, coming from where I've come from, and I'm blessed to have this situation,” Howard said. “I just have to go out and do my best and hopefully get the right outcome.”