The Mad Ants had won three straight games to get back into playoff contention. But about 3 hours after completing their latest game – a 111-103 victory Wednesday night at Grand Rapids, Michigan – the NBA announced it was suspending play in the G League because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It's unknown when, or if, the G League will complete the season.
The Mad Ants released a statement Thursday reading: “We are working to provide information to our fans who have tickets for upcoming Mad Ants home games. This is a fluid situation and we will continue to provide updates as they become available. Thank you for your continued support.”
Through a spokesperson, the Mad Ants declined requests from The Journal Gazette to get further comment. The Mad Ants didn't say if players and staff were remaining in town.
The Mad Ants, who are owned and operated by the Indiana Pacers, were 21-22 with seven games remaining in the regular season.
Fort Wayne had two remaining home games scheduled – Saturday against the Windy City Bulls and March 23 against the Delaware Blue Coats.
The G League normally follows NBA protocols on all matters. The NBA determined Wednesday night it would suspend play after a Utah Jazz player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for COVID-19 just before a game at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.
The only statement from the G League, sent at 12:31 a.m. Thursday, read: “In response to the coronavirus pandemic and following the NBA's announcement (Wednesday) that it is suspending game play, the NBA G League has also suspended the 2019-20 season, effective after (Wednesday's) games.”
Although it's believed the NBA will try to complete this season at some point, depending on the threat of coronavirus and possibly with no fans in the stands, it's less clear if resumption of play in the G League is even feasible. TV money, for instance, wouldn't help alleviate financial losses in the G League, as it would with the NBA.
The G League had just over two weeks left in the regular season. NBA teams still had about 17 regular-season games apiece to play over the next month.
The Mad Ants, who missed the 2019 playoffs and got off to a franchise-worst 1-8 start this season, had clawed their way back into postseason contention. They were one game back of the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Delaware, Capital City and Raptors 905 – each 22-21 – were vying for that final spot, too.
Even if the G League doesn't resume play, it's possible the basketball season would continue for Mad Ants players under NBA contracts, such as the Alize Johnson, if the NBA returns to the court in the coming weeks. Brian Bowen II and Naz Mitrou-Long were on two-way contracts that allowed them to split time between the Mad Ants and Pacers, though Bowen had exhausted his 45 days in the NBA and would normally need his contract converted to a standard NBA deal to rejoin the Pacers.
Walt Lemon Jr. had led the Mad Ants with an average of 20.3 points, 6.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 39 games. Johnson, who played 19 G League games this season, had 20.1 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Bowen averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds over 29 games with Fort Wayne.