Grizz Gaming: Week 1 – Baby Steps

As the Memphis Grizzlies were taking the court in FedExForum for their first home playoff game in four years, just a few yards away, in a darkened room on the fourth floor of the Grizzlies’ admin building, Grizz Gaming was going back to work.

Just 20 hours earlier, we’d walked out of our facility with a 2-0 record, after starting our season with back-to-back wins against Heat Check Gaming (93-52 in Game 1; 66-63 in Game 2). We were feeling good, because for the first time in Grizz Gaming history, we’d won our first two games of the season. It felt nice to not start off at the bottom of a hole, to know that the next month would not have to be spent trying to fight our way back near .500.

(I should probably interject here that as the Grizz Gaming season chugs along, I’m going to try and write weekly—well, nearly weekly—updates here on GrindCityMedia.com. Each 2K League season is so different and unique, and this time around I want to try and tell the story of this Grizz Gaming season as it happens, in real time.)

My favorite part of those victories over Miami was that we posted two great team wins–each Grizz Gaming player was an important, integral part. While our point guard Vandi led the way offensively, averaging 34 points and 11 assists per game, we also hit our open shots, made smart rotations and covered for each other. Our center, AuthenticAfrican, controlled the boards and the paint, Spartxn was his usual smart self, defending in the corners, and Chess and Follow boxed up the Heat backcourt for two games, which is a remarkable achievement in a game as offensively OP as the 2K League build. Even our sixth man, Jrod, contributed without playing, talking to guys during breaks about things he was seeing and adjustments we could make.

And then on Saturday night, right about the time Young Dolph was taking the stage at the Grizzlies rally a few yards from our practice facility, we got back at it against Hawks Talon Gaming. We were locked in early, and we jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, when suddenly Chess said, “Lang, Lang, um… look…”

I spun around from my vantage point and looked at his screen, which was completely black. “Foul! Someone commit a foul!” I said into my wireless headset, as Follow grabbed an opponent on screen to stop the game.

Now, I am no IT expert. I know some stuff about computers and technology, sure, most of which has been learned on the job the last few years setting up and maintaining a local area network in the Grizz Gaming practice facility. Mostly, I think I’m good at troubleshooting, ruling out wrong answers and narrowing possibilities. But in this case I was literally on the clock. Someone mentioned we only had two timeouts left, which would be a tough way to finish the game if I could manage to get it fixed in time. A trickle of sweat ran down my neck; I felt like I was defusing a ticking bomb.

I could tell that Chess’s screen was powered on, but with no signal coming through I assumed it must’ve been an issue with his CPU—each Playstation 5 that we play on goes through a capture card and computer, mostly for broadcast purposes, but also so we can use Discord to chat and have game sound. We started burning timeouts as I attempted to bypass the capture card, to at least get us to halftime when we could do a restart on the computer.

In my wireless headset, I heard our game admin, Glitch, jump into our voice chat and ask what was going on. And it was right about then that Follow noticed Chess was no longer in the game at all. The screen wasn’t dead—it was the PS5 that had crashed. There actually wasn’t anything I could do, except wait for the PS5 to restart, which it did shortly. And before long we were back at it, our 5-point lead intact.

We ended up winning that game big, 82-51, and then hitting a speed bump in Game 2. After three straight games where we played extremely well, our fourth game was one of those where we just couldn’t get out of our own way. We only converted 9 of our 24 three-point attempts, and despite a season-high 9 turnovers, we still ended up losing by just seven, 68-61.

Which is how we found ourselves at 3-1 after the first week of 2K League games. We had some strong individual performances—Vandi was named the NBA 2K League’s player of the week—but mostly I was happy with the performance of our group as a cohesive unit. The word I’d concentrated on in practice all week was “trust.” Meaning we needed to trust each other, even when it sometimes felt counterintuitive. Basketball can be such an instinctive game–you see someone pop open and feel like you need to cover them, or you see a loose ball and want to chase it. But for Grizz Gaming to be successful, that stuff has to happen within the framework of team play. And if just one player gets off script, it can mess everything up for everyone else.

At the same time, we have to be willing to trust our teammates, that if someone tells us to run to the top of the key, for instance, they are telling us that for the good of the whole, that they will have our backs and be there for us. That’s what a team is all about: trusting and believing.

We took Sunday off, like we normally do, then got right back to work on Monday. This Saturday night we play two against a hungry Bucks Gaming team, and then we get our first bye week of the season.

We’ve taken our first steps, and they felt pretty good.

But we still have plenty of room to improve.

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