Mad Ants guard Ron Howard will worry about the All-Star game in two days. Priority No.1 is logging two more wins.
The Ants play back-to-back home games against Bakersfield and Sioux Falls tonight and Thursday at Memorial Coliseum. Coming off a blowout loss at Canton, Fort Wayne needs to reestablish its rhythm.
“Our two bad games this season were against Canton,” Howard said. “We responded the first time, so I don't see why we won't respond this time. It's easy to respond after you get blown out. I don't think there's a secret to it other than our pride and we want to get back on track the way we have for the most part all season.”
The Ants (17-13) sit two games behind Canton in the NBA Development League's East Division. They'll play Bakersfield (12-19) at 7 tonight and Sioux Falls (18-11) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
They'll have a short break after those games as Howard heads to play in the D-League All-Star game on Saturday in New Orleans. Second-year Ants guard Tony Mitchell will defend his slam dunk title at halftime of that game.
“As far as the All-Star game, it's a cool honor to be part of it,” Howard said. “It's obviously a fun event and I'm fortunate to be part of it. It'll be fun and I'll definitely make the most of it. But winning these next two games is the most important thing we have going on right now. We have to get back on track.”
Tonight's game will likely be the last to feature three NBA players on assignment: Peyton Siva and the other Tony Mitchell of the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Johnson of the Indiana Pacers. They are all expected to return to their NBA teams after tonight's game.
The mixture of the regular Ants roster with the NBA-assigned players has been smooth at times and bumpy at others. Maintaining continuity in playing time and player rotations is tough.
Howard said it is tricky, but the team has made it work as best as possible.
“The guys who have come in have been here before and they fit in well to everything, but it's still different for them as well as for us,” Howard said. “We just have to make it work like we have for the most part all season. Again, I don't see why we won't be able to do that.”
The 96-82 loss at Canton on Sunday – a game in which the Ants fell behind by 30 points in the first half – was an aberration on an otherwise solid season, Howard said.
Mitchell, meanwhile, says he will try to come up with some creative dunks for the All-Star contest.
“I'm going to try some things in the next couple days to see if I've still got it,” Mitchell said. “If I've still got it, then I'll have to come up with some new stuff to put in front of all the people.”
Mitchell expects to call on Howard to assist him.
“Me and my partner Ron Howard will have to think of something,” Mitchell said. “We'll come up with something. You have to have fun with it. The kids like to see stuff like that. A lot of people want to see dunks, so it's just going out there and showing them you can do something crazy.”