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All-Star Weekend Came Early to Fort Wayne

Photo by Otto Kitsinger/NBAE/Getty Images
Photo by Otto Kitsinger/NBAE/Getty Images

Fort Wayne Mad Ants power forward Darnell Lazare will take the court with 19 other NBA D-League players for the 2012 D-League All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 25. He was selected along with Walker Russell Jr. to represent the Mad Ants on the East team. Lazare is averaging 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds this season, but he gave a lot of the credit for his success to his Fort Wayne teammates.

"It’s exciting. You know last year I thought I would have made it, but came up short, so when I decided to come back to the D-League this year it was on my to-do list and one of my goals to achieve," Lazare told Ridiculous Upside. "I’m thankful for the opportunity. Obviously, my teammates have a lot to do with it, along with the coaching staff and the organization. I think the whole organization is rewarded by having some players represent Fort Wayne."

Lazare’s future all-star teammates came to town last Sunday night for a visit as the Fort Wayne Mad Ants hosted the Springfield Armor. JamesOn Curry, Jerry Smith, and Jeff Foote were all selected to play on the East all-star team.

Curry is averaging 17 points, 4.4 rebounds and six assists per game. Smith, the reigning D-league performer of the week at the time, has tallied 17.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and four assists this year. 7-foot center Jeff Foote’s numbers are equally impressive: 14.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Along with the solid statistics, the Armor brought with them a four game winning streak that did not go unnoticed by Lazare.

"Springfield definitely is a strong team; they’re one of the better teams in the league. I think the second team in the East," Lazare said. "We just want to be focused and try to out-man each one of them from an individual standpoint and from a team standpoint. I know for me, I’m going to take my matchup personally whether I’m guarding Jeff Foote or [Dennis] Horner. It’s going to be a battle down there so we are going to try to work hard and try to get the win."

Sunday night’s game was close until tip-off, however, as the Armor took a commanding lead early that led to them having a 73-41 advantage at the half while Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey used words like ‘embarrassing’ and ‘unacceptable’ to describe their play.

Fort Wayne improved in the second half, but the 32 point deficit was too much to overcome and Springfield won 118-87. It was not an all-star performance for Lazare who managed only 7 points and 3 rebounds, but his sense of responsibility was admirable.

"I'll take responsibility on this one," Lazare told the News-Sentinel. "I'll take that lick and get back to the gym and work on turning it around."

After the game, JamesOn Curry was complimentary of his teammates when asked about his selection to the all-star team.

"It’s all a team effort. I think we have more than two all-stars on our team. To tell you the truth, we have more than that," Curry said. "Lance Hurdle is an all-star. L.D. Williams is an all-star. I really feel like it’s a talented organization and it shows in our effort, accountability and a desire to win."

A quick look at the box score would force anyone to agree. All of the Springfield starters scored in double figures and were equally impressive on the defensive end of the floor. The Armor now have a franchise record five-game winning streak and will look to stretch it to six against the Iowa Energy on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, Fort Wayne will look to end their five-game losing streak against the Erie BayHawks.