Last week, during the middle of a Grizz Gaming scrimmage, I had to walk over to FedExForum to shoot some content. Not ten minutes later, when I strolled back into our practice facility, it was halftime of a scrimmage game, and the guys were scattered throughout the place, mostly sitting quietly. I’ve been doing this 2K League coaching thing long enough now to be able to read the mood in a room. There was a feeling of frustration in the air, and I quickly realized that I was walking into the midst of some sort of disagreement.
This happens more often than you’d think—six people are asked to live and work together, and disputes can occasionally arise. The moment I walked in, Spartxn turned to me, as if to settle whatever the discrepancy was. Were they arguing about a defensive coverage? Was someone missing open shots? Was someone turning the ball over?
“Here he is,” Spartxn began, looking to me. “Lang, let me ask you…”
“Wait, wait!” AuthenticAfrican came hurrying over from the other direction, waving his hands above his head. “You have to give him the background, you can’t just ask him.”
“OK,” Spartxn agreed. Finally, we would get to the bottom of this, and I hoped we could work through it in time for our next game.
As I noticed everyone else looking at me to see how I would react, Spartxn asked, “Who would you consider the greatest actor of all-time?”
So this was what they my guys were arguing about. After I got over my initial surprise, and after I clarified that they were only considering modern actors plus factoring in box office revenues, I volunteered Denzel and Hanks off the top of my head, later adding DiCaprio, DeNiro and maybe even Daniel Day Lewis. We argued, we laughed. And then we got back to playing 2K.
When you’re winning in the 2K League, you can afford to spend a few minutes of valuable practice time on these types of discussions. And right now, Grizz Gaming has been winning—two weeks into the season, we are 5-1, sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference.
It is simultaneously terrific and terrifying. Sure, it feels great to get off to the best start in franchise history. It’s heartening to think about how the work we put in throughout the offseason, all of the scouting and interviewing and trades and grinding the game and scrimming and scrimming and scrimming, has thus far worked out pretty well. We’ve been good offensively, but better defensively, focusing on getting stops and playing our style of basketball.
But being in a good place doesn’t make it all any less stressful. Last Saturday night, we had two games against the Bucks, who were 0-6 coming into the game. It would’ve been easy to just assume we could stroll in and get two victories, but we knew better—you can’t take any team in the 2K League lightly. We prepared the same way we would have gotten ready for a 6-0 team, and I spent all day with a brick in my stomach, nervous for these games.
We didn’t play our best games. Vandi didn’t have the same type of dominant offensive performances he had in Week 1, when he was named the 2K League Player of the Week. But we turned in a balanced game one, with all five players finishing with at least 12 points, lifting us to an 87-66 win. In game two, Spartxn led the way, finishing with 21 points, and Authentic topped his 16 boards in game one with 25 in game two. We got both wins, and went into the bye week on a high.
Still, we know we haven’t really accomplished anything. Despite being in first place in our conference, according to the 2KL website we are the seventh-best team in the League, because we have played a few teams with bad records. According to some other metrics, we’ve been pretty good defensively, which is what I really care about. (Although I still think we have plenty of room to improve on the defensive end.)
I don’t know about the guys, but I needed the bye week. It’s been a grind getting to this point, and there’s a lot of season remaining. Now we have to sustain the production. We’ve seen teams start hot and finish cold, or, like we’ve done the last few seasons, start cold and finish hot. Our job now is just to keep it going. To keep putting in work. To practice every day and find areas where we can improve, both individually and as a team.
It’s been a really fun start.
We just know there’s a long way to go.