Many teams would consider winning THE TIPOFF, making it to THE TURN & NBA 2K League Finals, and having their coach win Coach of the Year a great season.
Not 76ers GC.
For them, Season 2 ended in failure with them falling to T-Wolves Gaming in five games in the Finals. In an effort to redeem their Finals performance and maintain their unprecedented level of winning in the league, Coach Jeff Terrell brought back their ‘Core 4’ players from last year to run it back and try to win a title.
We sat down with Radiant, ZDS, Breadwinner LA, Steez, and Coach Jeff Terrell to see how they are moving on from the Finals loss and what they are doing this offseason to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate they did in Season 2.
Q: You guys came so close last year, one game away from winning it all. What have you guys been doing this offseason to shake that off and get ready for the upcoming season?
Scretty: We all have been trying to improve our games this offseason. Me personally, they had to give up a lot to bring me back so I feel like there is a lot on my shoulders to be worth it. Work on my game, work on pick and roll, taking pressure off Radiant will be our biggest thing for Season 3.
Q: Bread, what about you, you and Bear have a pretty close relationship, anything you’ve been doing this offseason to get over that loss to a friend?
Breadwinner: We just got to lock in for this season. We left a lot of money on the table when it mattered. We still had a great season and I feel like with us getting our core back, we’ll be in the same position next year. Losing to Bear, it hurt more than losing to any other team, but at the end of the day, we got that far all together, so we just have to lock in.
Steez: I feel like everybody has been putting in that work this offseason which is good to see. Everybody knows what they need to do and knows what we need to do to get back in that position that we were last year. Like Bread said, we brought the core guys back and I think that’s been a huge success over the past two seasons. Not really sure what we are looking for going into the draft, but either way, they are going to be a vital part to this team and it’s going to be a good season again.
Q: Radiant, in particular with you, you were #1 in the Glitchy 25 so a pretty major acknowledgment from your peers. It’s got to be nice getting that recognition, but does that drive you to get better and to make sure 76ers GC is on top?
Radiant: It’s always my goal. I’m not trying to go into a season to win MVP or trying to be ranked #1. I’m going into the season trying to win as much money as I can and to be honest, every tournament I’m trying to win it all for me, my teammates, and my organization. As long as we do what we have to do and keep our same group of guys, I think we’ll have a chance to go to the Finals every single season. That’s my goal, I’ll do my part to get us where we need to be.
Q: Coach Terrell, as the coach of the team that got so close, it obviously poses a big challenge to not only return to that place, but you have to toss in a couple more wrinkles so it’s not just the same team again. Are you concocting any plans, are we going to see some new stuff from the reigning Coach of the Year?
Coach: I think this year will be a little bit different than we were last year. I think the gameplay this year is going to allow us to do different things. I also think with how much work our guys have been putting in in the offseason it will allow us to do different sort of lineups and have a little more versatility. I’m very excited. After Season 1, we had a tough loss to Miami in the Semis. We bounced back very well last year, the guys didn’t put in as much work as they have from Season 1 to Season 2 as they have this year. All four of them have been grinding the game and playing it and are hungry. Falling short is very motivating for all of us. We know how close we were. We made it to three out of four finals last year in four tournaments. We’re always thinking ahead about how we can do better than that. Our goals haven’t changed, we want to win the championship. Everybody is putting in the work for that and that starts for me all the way down to everybody on the team. We have to put in the work.
Q: I think we saw in Season 3 that the teams who ended being the most successful ended up being the teams not only with the most talent, but they had the most team chemistry both on and off the court. ZDS, that brings us to you here, you really wanted to get back to this team. You made it pretty clear to anyone that asked, even if they didn’t ask, that you wanted to end up back on this team. Why? What makes this group so special that you were willing to go to such lengths to get back to this squad?
ZDS: It’s more about the off the court stuff than on the court. The 76ers organization have treated me so well. We have a team house and every day we come home and we’re vibing in the living room, watching film. All the on-court stuff, yea people can say I want to get carried, but it’s much more than that. It’s not even about being carried cause Season 2 you could tell, the vibe that Bread brought and made us a better team. Once he got on the sharp rim, we figured ourselves out and made it to the Finals. We came up short obviously, but I feel like for Season 3, we’re going to be hungry.
Q: Was there a specific moment that still sticks to your mind? Can be negative or positive!
Coach: That final minute of Game 5. Probably one of the toughest things for me personally that I had to deal with. Unfortunately, our crowd had to get home because it was a long night with the delay, but just having all of them there. Then their crowd singing, “Na, na, na, goodbye.” I think that put myself and our guys at another level and we don’t want to feel that again. We were right there and being one game away and having that feeling and being there…we want to come home with the championship. That final minute of us standing up and cheering and us realizing the reality that we aren’t going to be champions, that was tough.
ZDS: My favorite moment was Game 4. At one point in the 4th quarter, we were down in the game and in the series, the game wasn’t going in our favor. We had to go through some adversity and we ended up winning that game. Game 4 was my favorite moment.
Steez: My favorite moment was all the games we won, even the ones we were struggling in. Nobody ever quit on anybody. I feel like the whole time, even in our party chat on the mic. I know everyone saw Bread and Jeff go at it, but we’re a family and families argue. At the same time, we stuck together the whole time through the final buzzer. You don’t see a lot of teams pull that out especially after what happened during Game 1 and 2 and then the delay. We stayed together as a unit and battled to the end, it was pretty special.
Q: Looking now to the offseason and ahead of Season 3, I’m sure you guys at this point are ready to start moving on. The theme of this offseason has been player movement. So many trades shuffling around teams, but then there are you guys. You are going into the season with a level of consistency that not a lot of other teams have. Do you guys think that is a particular advantage or do you think that the player movement is going to give us a brand new league going into next year?
Steez: The player movement, even with ZDS and everything that happened with him on Twitter, you ask is it an advantage to get everyone back? Of course it’s an advantage to get everyone back and of course you see why other teams know it’s an advantage. I’m not going to name names, but you saw the teams and the players that were tweeting at ZDS trying to get him to Charlotte. Everyone knows that if we were able to get our core back together then we can do a lot of damage. I know we still have to play the games, but we’re a contender again and we’re a powerhouse in this league and a lot of people don’t like that. Nobody likes consistency or going against consistency every year. Every time they see Philly on their schedule, they got to lock in or it’s going to be a rough time. Bringing back the core guys for us puts us in a great spot. We need a couple more pieces and we’re excited about that. I don’t think the rest of the league is.
Q: Coach Terrell, was your strategy going into the season to match your consistency vs. all of this movement or was it just a focus on keeping your guys together?
Coach: I’ll be honest with you, the consistency stuff, I think it’s a good thing, but I also think for our team, we’ve had so much success, there’s no reason to break that up. Getting ZDS was my main objective once we couldn’t retain four players. Getting him back once he went into the Expansion Draft was worth a 1st round pick. We gave up our 2nd as well for their 3rd, but we only moved back seven spots. I don’t think there’s 41 players or 20-some players better than Scretty. It doesn’t bother me, I think bringing him back and having our four guys, it guarantees us top-five guys at their positions. We are right there, we’re right where we want to be. We have the early 3rd round pick and a 4th round pick, we just have to finish out our roster. I know the guys are ready to go, I know they’re excited about Season 3. I think we’re headed in the right direction. As far as consistency, as long as we continue to progress as a team like we did in Season 1 and 2, these are the guys I want with me in Philly. They understand that there is stuff we have to work on individually and as a team. We have to get better in a lot of areas. I don’t think we’ve hit our peak. I think we are still pretty far away from potentially how good we could really be. I think there are so many stepping stones that we haven’t reached yet and for me, I think that’s a scary thing. I think we’re already very talented.
Q: I have a question for Bread. We are talking a lot about consistency, but it is just the four of you. You do stand, at this point, to lose your fifth player in Newdini. He was your lock, you had him for two years, he was such a big part of your defense last year. For you Bread, as you guys look for a new lock for this season, what are the important factors that you are looking for in a defensive partner?
A: Nothing specific that I am looking for. I think we’re going to miss Dini as a person. Dini is a great person off the court, that’s probably the hardest thing about replacing him. On the court, we still got our Core 4 back. It’s not going to be hard to plug in one person and have them do one job. When you come to this team, it’s not hard to do your job. All you have to do is do your job. It just goes from there. It’s not one specific thing in a prospect, for me, it can be a rookie or someone coming in after being unretained. I’m going to do my job every season and every game. We just need them to come in and do their job. Stay in front of the PG, that’s about it.
Q: Steez and Bread, in terms of your defensive abilities, you’re one of the best frontcourt duos in the league, what about combo makes you so lethal?
Steez: I’d say playing with Bread, you never know what you’re going to get. Obviously the first couple of games, I had to figure out how Bread played. Once I figured it out and I got that chemistry down with him, it almost got to a point where, when he made a move, I would know how to react every time. Like you saw in the Nets game, when Bread is on the pick-and-roll defense, if anything slips through, it was my job to stop any easy baskets. I think Bread and I combined for 16 steals in that game and broke the record at that time. The chemistry that me and him have, that’s on-court and off-court. I love playing with the guy, that’s why it was an easy call to retain him. Just having him on there with his defensive presence on both sides of the court, it’s fun to have on your team because a ton of teams know that name, especially on defense. It’s a good time.
Bread: Going off what Steez said…it’s the best when a coach tells you to go out there and do you. They know what they drafted me for, they know what I’ve been doing for years. When everything fell down and he told me that I could go out and do my thing. That Nets game, I think we pressed them the whole game and it was just busted. It was so busted. We got into a full court press, I was doing my thing in the half-court and everytime they slipped by Steez was there. Everything was going right that game and ever since then, we had the best defense In the game. We already had the best scoring PG in the game, so everything tied in and got us to the Finals.
Q: Was there anything that Jeff said to you guys last season where it all just clicked? Was there a valuable piece of advice that sticks out in your mind that Coach Terrell gave you guys last year or is it just his attitude with how he coaches you guys?
ZDS: At one point we were 5-4 or 4-4 and he tells us, this is a big series guys, we lose another one and we are going to have to fight to make the playoffs. When we played the Mavs, that was the turning point. We beat them and we realized we had to go on a winning streak or we are going to be in trouble. I think we won like SIX straight and started clicking from there.
Steez: I wouldn’t say there was a specific moment, he may be coach of the year, but I don’t know if he’s the motivational speaker type. He definitely says things that mean something. I remember that we lost a couple games and had a team meeting in one of the hotel rooms. It wasn’t anything he said, but you could tell that…there are coaches in this league that when they lose, it doesn’t really faze them. They’re just kind of going through the motions. But one thing you’ll get with Jeff, he bleeds with us, he wins with us and all that kind of stuff. So when we lose, he feels the exact same pain and he’s right there with us in the trenches. You don’t want to lose because he’s hurting just as bad as you are. That’s why winning is so special with us, we all put in that work together. We all look to each other, like in the hotel room, that we didn’t want to let each other down. We all had a goal and when you play for Philly, you’re not only playing for each other on the stage, you’re playing for Bread’s family, Radiant’s family, they have kids and I’m playing for them, I’m playing for Jeff’s family. That’s kind of how we all buy-in, that’s how we function and how we work in Philly.
Q: Radiant, this is for you first, the rest of you guys can jump in afterwards. Back to the player movement stuff, there are a lot of really interesting teams going into Season 3…are there any teams you are looking forward to playing? Any teams you guys got your eyes on for next season?
Radiant: All the player movement, I don’t really pay attention to it. If they are making moves, they are doing it for a reason because they’re not that good.
Steez: The trades are pretty interesting, but it’s nothing to really worry about. Like Radiant said, if you’re getting moved like that, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it obviously meant something wasn’t working out, we can all agree with that. I think that just kind of shows the special thing that we have over here in Philly that we don’t need to move anybody and we’re still going to go out and try to get that ring. A team to mark on the schedule? I think that one is kind of obvious. With Jeff mentioning that last minute of the Finals, that one doesn’t sit well. We just go out there and play our game, when we do that and look up at the scoreboard, it usually looks pretty good to me.
Q: If you had to give any advice for any up-and-coming prospects that have not gone through a Combine before, what would you say to these folks?
Radiant: What I tell my IRL friends about the combine, it’s not going to be easy or fun, but I tell them that we all had to go through it. If you go through a couple of bad games, don’t let that ruin your vibe or who you’re trying to be. Go out there, play your game, and play how you play. If you do what you have to do, things should be good for you. Some guys will play a couple games and they’ll get bad draws on teammates and then just stop playing. I wouldn’t recommend that. Just give it your all, the worst thing the league can say is no.
Steez: I usually tell people to control what they can control. You’re not going to be able to help if you get bad teammates who don’t want to play as a team. You can’t control if you go up against an all-star team at the Combine or something like that or how much you get the ball if you’re not playing PG. You can’t control if your PG passes to you. All you can control is if you have the opportunity to make a play, make that play and let the rest of the chips fall as they may. Keep a good head on your shoulders and realize what the big picture is.
Q: What was the experience like of getting drafted for the first time?
Steez: Getting drafted by the 76ers was awesome. You’re kind of pacing around MSG the whole time figuring out what team you’re going to play for. I had an interview with Philly, but it wasn’t anything crazy. I didn’t feel like for sure I was going to go there, but once the opportunity presented itself and Philly picked me with their 4th round pick, I was ready to start working. My family was very excited for me, they supported me since Day 1. I think that’s the biggest impact is that once your name is called, every single hour and minute and every time you sacrificed something like spending time with family or friends to play this game, that it all pays off. I think that’s the part you cherish the most, that you didn’t let your family down. I know that after Season 1 some people didn’t get drafted and I know that’s tough cause you feel like you let your people down and yourself down. It’s not really about how you start or the middle, but it’s about the end. The journey isn’t over.
ZDS: I got drafted and we were at the draft party. I was talking to Bsmoove and I had told him I wanted Radiant as my point guard. It was wild because when we were scrimmaging and playing 2 v 2, me and Radiant were always playing together and winning. Before the first tourney ever in THE TIPOFF, Jeff told me that there was a chance that I could play. I was like, ‘yea let’s do it!’ We had worked on a new lineup and I was starting from the very first game. To go in the 6th round, become a starter, and to get where I am now, it’s real. I actually feel that I’m starting to get the respect I deserve.
Q: You guys are one of the most talented teams going into next season. Any individual goals for you guys in Season 3? Could be awards or anything of the sort?
Steez: Are you trying to bait us with that question? You know damn well we don’t care about individual awards. Radiant won the whole Glitchy #1, Bread’s got a Defensive Player of the Year, Radiant made a team of the year, Jeff got Coach of the Year, none of that means nothing if we don’t get a ring at the end of the season. It’s awesome to have and it’s great for the resume…if we’re not holding that hardware at the end of the year, then it doesn’t feel right. Walnut won MVP Season 1, Mama won it this year and those awards don’t mean nothing if you’re not holding that trophy at the end of the day.