FORT WAYNE – Jamaal Franklin is embracing the opportunity he has to keep his game sharp in the D-League. He just wants to make sure it’s only a detour that has taken him to Fort Wayne, not the end of the voyage.
I just want to make sure I don’t fall into the D-League trap and make sure I stay an NBA player, playing NBA basketball and making good shots and passing the ball right, said Franklin, who has played 13 games in two stints with the Mad Ants.
A second-round draft pick of the Memphis Grizzlies last year, Franklin is the only NBA-contracted player with the Mad Ants, who have a league-best record of 29-16 and have clinched a playoff berth for a second straight season after failing to do so in their first five seasons.
Only five games remain in the regular season, and the Mad Ants have won 5 of 6 and 12 of 15 heading into tonight and Saturday, when they play host to Springfield (20-26) at Memorial Coliseum.
Franklin, 22, who played last season at San Diego State, has been an important part of this season’s success. He has averaged 16.5 points, 6 rebounds and 4.3 assists with the Mad Ants and is expected to finish the season with them.
Franklin has played 19 games with the Grizzlies, who have former Mad Ants coach Duane Ticknor as an assistant coach. He averaged only 1.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 0.3 assist in 7.9 minutes per game.
Franklin adds another talented guard to Fort Wayne, which also has all-star Ron Howard (20.6 points, 4.3 assists per game), rookie Trey McKinney-Jones (15.3, 2.1) and Matt Bouldin (12.1, 3.5).
Franklin has yet to start a game with the Mad Ants, who have endured several lineup changes. Both Tony Mitchells, Peyton Siva, Solomon Hill and Orlando Johnson have shuttled between the NBA and the D-League. The Mad Ants have made trades to acquire Bouldin and Tim Ohlbrecht, while giving up Olek Czyz. Brian Butch left to play overseas.
The Mad Ants have used 25 players this season, but it hasn’t stopped them from getting a franchise-record 29 victories and counting.
I feel like we’re doing fine right now despite players going in and out of the lineup, Franklin said. We’re winning games. Everybody is being one and sharing the ball, and it makes everything a lot better.
Even though Franklin would rather be in the NBA, he’s making the most of his time with the Mad Ants.
The best thing about (being here) is I’m able to play, I’m playing minutes, Franklin said. But it’s rough on me still because I’m away from my house and my family. It’s rough, that aspect.
But being down here is a good experience to get playing time. That (Memphis) team is loaded right now, and I have to wait my turn, so it’s best for me to be down here right now.
Note: Playoff tickets go on sale at 1 p.m. Monday at Memorial Coliseum ticket office.