On Friday night, after my family finished dinner, cleaned the kitchen and went upstairs to bed, I grabbed my laptop and my HyperX headset, as well as a strong mug of tea and my reading glasses, and I set up shop on the kitchen island counter. With a surprisingly valuable roll of paper towels serving as my backdrop, I coached Grizz Gaming in the first publicly broadcast games of our third season. We won Games 1 and 2 of a three-game series against Hornets Venom GT, to move on to the quarterfinals of the Spring 16 unofficial 2K League preseason tournament.
I know, it’s all a bit confusing, for me as well. After the 2K League Draft, back at the end of February, all six of the Grizz Gaming players flew to Memphis, and we started practicing as a team. We started figuring out archetypes and lineups and working on our most important subject: Chemistry. Meanwhile, as we all know, the world around us changed. With the outbreak of COVID-19, I bunkered down with my family, and the six Grizz Gamers became their own family unit. We stopped practicing at our state-of-the-art practice facility and got the guys set up to practice from their apartments.
It’s impossible to understate how dramatically my role changed. I went from spending eight hours in person with the guys, seven days a week, to being sort of a constant virtual presence in their lives. Instead of talking in person, we chat now via FaceTime or we text. I still suggest plays and they still ask me about receiving packages or figuring out direct deposit, and I help however I can, it just all happens in different ways now. Thanks to the app Discord, each player can be in their room, and I can be at my home, but we can all view the same game and talk via headset in real time. Hopefully they feel like I’m still prowling behind them like I do during 2K League games, keeping an eye on the shot clock, looking for opponent tendencies, tracking timeouts, encouraging them when they need it, lightening the mood when that’s needed.
The way we’ve gotten better is by putting in work. While we’ve been in our homes, we’ve been scrimmaging against other teams via the 2K League build practice mode, playing at least three or four series a day against other teams. The other morning I hopped online a few hours before our first scrimmage to do some work, and found DDouble and Jrod using the Grizz Gaming Discord server to get up shots in the league build, putting in the behind-the-scenes work you don’t normally hear about or see. They were just trying to get better.
A few people have asked me if the 2K League could just play all of our games virtually, from different locations. And we could, theoretically, although there are some issues with that, namely that despite anyone’s best efforts there would still be some lag from playing over the internet. So while the League has worked on a new schedule and new solutions, we have scrimmaged and scrimmaged and scrimmaged.
The phrase I ended up employing throughout using last season was Pounding The Rock, which I shamelessly stole from San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Essentially, what it means is that we believe if we keep our heads down and we put in work, at some point we will enjoy the fruits of that labor. We don’t know when it will happen, but at some point that work will equal success. Maybe success brings notoriety or money or whatever you’re looking for, but none of that happens without the grind. Without our point guard, Vandi, working on his dribble moves in an empty virtual gym for hours. Without getting shots up early in the morning. Without looking for scrimmages late at night.
There’s nothing more frustrating than putting in work and not seeing immediate results, which is where you have to have faith. You have to trust that work brings dividends, that pounding that rock will not be in vain, that one day, somehow it’s gonna pay off. This opening tournament isn’t officially sanctioned, so the results don’t even really matter. But the way we played did matter, at least to me, and I think it was important to all of us to be able to compete and see the things that we’ve worked on so hard translate in a game setting.
The longer I’ve done this, the more I’ve realized that success isn’t so much a destination as it is a journey, with peaks and valleys and bumps and ramps and wrecks and close finishes along the way. It’s all connected, and everything that happens affects everything else that happens. That’s what I believe, anyway.
Every season, it’s been something else. From the learning curve of season one, to the growing pains of season two, and now this. Season three games of the NBA 2K League will tip-off soon, and that’s when things will start to count.
As the whole world has learned in the last few months, there are some things that are out of our control. For now, we will worry about what we can worry about. We will do our best to keep our focus on getting better each and every day. We’ll keep pounding that rock. We’re just waiting for it to crack.