Grizz Gaming: Nothing Easy

After a big offseason where we made a big trade and a big draft where we got the exact two players we wanted to pick, it sure seemed like Grizz Gaming was primed for a big start to our 2020 season.

And then we lost our first four games.

This was not ideal. Here we had a team that one year ago finished 8th out of 21 teams, brought back four members of last year’s starting five, added one of the best centers in the NBA 2K League, and then… it didn’t work. Or at least, I’m guessing that’s how it looked from the outside looking in.

To be honest, I knew the reality was somewhat different. Because it did work, or at least at times we saw that it was working. We’d spent months quarantined together, which gave us endless time to try out archetype and lineup combinations. We scrimmaged pretty much every team in the league dozens of times, and I knew we were getting to a point where we could see our potential. It may have been way off in the distance, but there it was, shimmering like an Mempops stand in the Memphis summer heat, what we could be when we were clicking on all cylinders.

But what I had to remember was that it getting there was not going be easy. When you’re building something great, nothing comes without hard work. You can’t just plug in a new guy and pick up right where you left off. It doesn’t really matter what you did a season ago, or how many people you return from season to season—each year is its very own journey, filled with unique challenges, puzzles to be solved, issues to figure out.

As I said when we hit 0-4, one thing I knew for certain was that we were not going to give up.

This group was committed to each other, and no matter how tough things got and how bleak it seemed, we were determined to fight through it. There were so many times it felt like we just couldn’t catch a break, and there’s no way to react to that other than just throwing up your hands and being patient and trusting that eventually things were going to turn our way.

And then, just like that, things turned our way. We swept the Lakers, including a 47-point win in game two, for our first W on the season. The next week we dropped game one to the Celtics, then came back to win games two and three. Two nights later, we did the same thing against the Pistons to bring us to 3-4 on the season. One week later, we did the same thing to beat the defending 2K League champions, T-Wolves Gaming, and finally found ourselves back at .500.

Last week we entered the first tournament of the season, The Tipoff, looking for our first tournament win in franchise history. (Yep, in two seasons in the 2K League, somehow we had never won a tournament game.) We were put into a group with the Warriors, who were 6-1 overall, and the Pacers, who were 4-4 but are one of the toughest defensive teams in the 2K League. After we dropped game one to the Warriors, we beat them in game two, then swept the Pacers, 2-0, to not only get our first tournament wins, but to win our group and advance to the championship round.

That meant we’d gone 11-4 over our last 15 total games played. Things had finally started to go our way. We’d not only cracked the tournament drought, but we’d also gone from last place to one loss out of a playoff spot, with half of the season still in front of us.

The most encouraging part of all this is that we know we can play better. Our defense has been pretty good, but there’s room to grow there, and once we find some consistency on the offensive end, things could really blossom.

But that’s looking down the road. We have to focus on the here and now, whatever is directly in front of us, and most immediately, we have back-to-back games this week against teams that are also playing well of late, Gen.G and the Knicks. And then we get a break for a few weeks, before we head back into it for the stretch run.

Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you realize that it isn’t. As the GM of another team in the 2KL texted me recently, “2K is not easy. No aspect of it.”

Don’t I know. We’ve come a long way this season, and we still have a long way to go.

See ya down the road. We’ve got more work to do.

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