Mad Ants president Jeff Potter looked at his losing team and decided a “massive makeover” was the best option. Day One certainly looked good.
Potter traded popular veteran point guard Walker Russell Jr. and this year's No.1 draft pick, JaJuan Johnson, to try to reenergize the team after a 3-10 start.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. That quote did not originate in the NBA D-League, but it fits.
“Frankly, I'm tired of seeing our team be 3-10,” Potter said. “We should be better than that and I think something had to be done to change things up. If you're going to shake things up, don't mess around on the edges. You have to go to the heart and that's why I decided to move Walker and JaJuan.”
It'll take some time to see how well the massive makeover works, but the Ants couldn't ask for a better start. Fort Wayne beat the Texas Legends 107-97 on Friday at Memorial Coliseum.
Two of three newly acquired players made their Mad Ants debut, both with big numbers.
Former Notre Dame star Luke Harangody, who came from Canton in the Johnson trade Friday, scored 19 points with 18 rebounds. He had a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) by halftime. Though he has been in Chicago rehabbing a surgically repaired knee, Harangody was diving across the floor trying to grab a loose ball in the fourth quarter.
“He is what we knew he was going to be,” Mad Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. “He's a great rebounder. He's a go-to guy, which is something we haven't had. He has such intensity and an effort level. He's a fun guy to coach, a great person and he's going to be a great teammate. They already believe in him and trust him.”
Anthony Richardson, acquired from Reno in the Russell trade, scored 18 points with eight rebounds. Indiana Pacers rookie Orlando Johnson led the Ants with 24 points and veteran Ron Howard scored 23 with eight assists from the point guard spot.
Potter was obviously pleased with the win, although one game doesn't make a season or prove a trade to be a coup.
“I think we've done some good things with the Mad Ants, but one thing we haven't done is win and that eats at me, big-time,” Potter said. “I want to try to do what we can here. I hope we don't have to make any other tough moves, but I'll make them if I have to.”
The Mad Ants started off 5-10 last season and Potter fired coach Joey Meyer. Potter made it clear that he plans to stick with Ticknor this time around.
“I know I've got the right coach,” Potter said. “I think I've got the right players, but they have to buy into what Duane is teaching. If they don't, then we'll have to find someone who will. I think we've got that group now.”
The Ants are still waiting for the arrival of guard Jack McClinton, who was also acquired in the trade for Russell. He's expected to be in town soon. The Ants could also add D-League veteran Tommy Smith soon. He was picked up before the season, but has been out for personal reasons.
Acquiring Harangody, who had not played this season since being released by the Cleveland Cavaliers, came at a fairly high price.
Fort Wayne gave up Johnson and a first-round pick in next year's D-League draft, getting Harangody and a third-round pick next year in return.
“It's a pretty big price, but I think I got a nice bounty in return,” Potter said. “A third-round pick has some value. Think about it like baseball prospects. Who knows what our first-round pick would be? God knows we've had some busts in the first round.
“I decided I'm going to strike and use this guy now and get Duane as many tools as he can to have some success. The season's only (14) games in. We can get hot.”
After five consecutive losing seasons, a Mad Ants hot streak is long overdue.
MAD ANTS 107, TEXAS 97
Texas: House 1-9 0-0 2, Rice 4-11 2-2 11, Williams 6-11 0-0 12, Cunningham 7-18 3-6 18, Singletary 8-13 3-5 22, Eyenga 11-19 0-2 22, Bozeman 1-3 3-6 6, Odufuwa 0-2 0-0 0, Lewis 2-4 0-2 4, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-91 11-23 97.
Fort Wayne: Harangody 5-15 8-10 19, Richardson 8-18 0-0 18, Mitchell 5-13 3-3 15, Howard 10-17 3-4 23, O. Johnson 9-19 4-4 25, Porter 0-0 0-0 0, Rojas 2-6 1-2 6, Anderson 1-1 0-2 2, Gary 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-90 19-25 107.
Three-point goals: T/Singletary 3-4, Bozeman 1-2, Cunningham 1-4, Rice 1-7, Eyenga 0-1, House 0-4. FW/Richardson 2-4, Mitchell 2-5, Johnson 2-7, Rojas 1-1, Harangody 1-2. Rebounds: T/46 (Rice 8, Williams 8, Singletary 8), FW/54 (Harangody 18, Richardson 8, Mitchell 8). Assists: T/15 (Singletary 6), FW/23 (Howard 8, Johnson 6). Steals: T/9 (House 3, Singletary 3), FW/8 (Richardson 2, Rojas 2). Blocks: T/4, FW/4 (Harangody 2). Turnovers: T/14, FW/13. Total fouls: T/20, FW/23. Attendance: 2,967.