After a successful 9-5 inaugural season in the NBA 2K League, Pistons GT finished 2-14 in Season. The result? An aggressive offseason roster aimed at getting the franchise back on track for Season 3. On paper, GM Adam Rubin’s trades for Ramo (returning to the club after being traded to Pacers Gaming after Season 1) and Demon JT have already given fans in Detroit something to look forward to.
But beyond on-court improvements, Pistons GT are looking to recapture the off-the-court chemistry that was part of the winning formula during Season 1. We checked in with Rubin, Ramo and Demon JT to get a pulse on what recapturing that chemistry means to them, their impressions on changing teams, and what needs to happen for the franchise during Season 3.
Question: The trade went down recently, Ramo and JT, you guys are reunited after playing together in the Pro-Am scene for years…what are some of the aspects that you are looking forward to in terms of playing together again?
Ramo: Me personally, it feels good. JT is someone I consider a brother. We came up on the Pro-Am scene and pretty much dominated. Our team, which was called Space Jam, we built it from the ground up and made it ourselves. That was how we made it into the league. Playing with JT, I know it’s going to be a special season because me and him know each other pretty well when it comes to chemistry on the court and off the court. We can tell each other anything, we know how each other plays and we know what to expect from each other. I know JT is very hungry for this season, you can tell by how he’s been dominating in the Pro-Am scene this year. He’s been talking about it, it’s going to be a special season.
Q: Ramo real quick, how important is comfort level and chemistry, is that really a truly intangible thing to competing in this league?
R: Chemistry is the most underrated aspect of the game. If you guys can’t mesh with each other not just on the court but off the court, you guys are going to have problems, especially on the court. It can lead to arguments, you know? You look at teams like the T-Wolves. I can tell you personally, I know most of those guys on the team, they chill with each other off the court. It converts to getting dubs on the court. They can just mesh well with each other and it shows, they’re gelling on the court, laughing and having fun. Me playing with JT it’s going to be a pretty smooth transition because we know what to expect from each other and have fun and joke about stuff. The chemistry is going to be there and at an all-time high. We’ve been playing with each other since what, JT? 2K13? 2K14? It’s going to be fun, I can’t wait.
Q: JT, where is your head at with all this? Space Jam was a long time ago, you’ve had two years in the league now whether it’s gone your way or not, you’re in a fresh situation here. Is Ramo the perfect guy to help you get back on track?
Demon JT: He’s the best guy over anybody, to be honest. He’s that one guy that won’t give up on me, he’ll never let me get complacent. He’ll be hard on me, but he’ll also get the best out of me. He’s the guy that I need at this point and I think it’s the same vice versa. We know each other through and through, so for us to actually get to lead this team with how well we know each other, I think the success rate is through the roof. Our problem won’t be how we are with each other, it’s more will we be able to lead our team? I think we will. When it comes to chemistry, it’s through the roof. When I was the best player in the game, part of it was him being my 5. He was my big, so to have him back now at this point in my career when I’m hungry, it’s everything. We both want to win extremely bad because we haven’t really done anything, we both want that chip. It’s time to prove everybody wrong.
Q: Two-sided question for you JT, you were one of the first picks in the history of the league, whatever happened with the Wizards has already happened, but what do YOU make of your first two years in the league? Where do you see your errors and what have you been doing this offseason to make sure that you can improve off of those for the Pistons going into Season 3?
JT: My error in Season 1 & 2 was not being JT. When I’m not being JT, I’m almost useless to a team. I’m hindering myself and my team. This offseason, I went into it thinking my team isn’t going to bring me back, but it was for a reason. I’m not being who they drafted and this offseason that’s all it’s been. I have to go back to being aggressive, go back to being a leader, go back to being vocal. I had to go back to who I was and what got me in the league and not just join the league and being complacent and happy that I’m there.
Q: Ramo, let’s bounce over to you. You get traded after Season 1 then you get traded again after Season 2, but you were #5 in the Glitchy 25, a All-NBA2KL1st teamer…where is your head at after being traded twice? Are you appreciative that the Pistons brought you back? are you angry that the Pacers traded you? Where’s your head at?
R: I’m just blessed to be a part of any organization, I’m happy to be back with Pistons GT, cuz what we had there was something special. We had team chemistry off the court, the coach here is great, Adam is still a great coach and will push us to be better every single day. So, I’m happy to be back with Pistons GT and Adam Rubin.
Q: Adam, What sorts of players (skill and personality-wise) are you looking to draft in 2020?
Adam Rubin: I honestly think the biggest difference between Season 1 and Season 2 draft strategy compared to Season 3’s draft strategy is relying on knowledge of the team that I now have. I’ve got 4 players, 3 of whom have played 2 years in the league and played against some of the best, highest level competition for a million dollars, now going in three years in a row. I’ll be relying on the knowledge that JT, Ramo, Joseph and Dev have to fill out the 5th and 6th players, not only of who they want to play with, but who’s going to hold them accountable and who they’re going to hold accountable.
Q: What are the chances of the Pistons having a bounce-back season in Season 3?
A: I don’t even think it’s a turn-around situation, I think it’s a back where we were in Season 1. We were a Top 3 team in Season 1, we made a couple moves because we saw the game was changing, where inside bigs simply weren’t going to be dominant. … We underestimated Ramo’s on-court leadership and his ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape within 2K. Going into Season 3, we’ve got our 1st Round pick. We’ve got our Number 1 pick back from our inaugural season (Ramo). We’ve got a PG in JT who is going to keep Ramo accountable the same way Ramo kept everyone else accountable in Season 1. That’s the biggest difference, is that in Season 1 it all fell on Ramo, the Number 1 pick, to be the leader and hold everyone accountable. Now we’ve got two veteran players, who are icons of the community, to kind of lead the charge in making sure that everyone stays true and is grinding and working their asses off to make sure this team is as good as it should be.
Q: Adam, it seems like team chemistry won’t be a problem for Pistons GT during Season 3?
A: Team chemistry obviously comes down to a common goal. You can look back to the early 90’s of bad-boy basketball, some of those guys didn’t get along off the court, but man they had on-the-court chemistry and they were best friends. At the end of the day, as long as our six players share the common goal of wanting the largest percentage of that million-dollar prize pool, and they want to bring home some hardware and they want to cement themselves on all-first team, all-defensive team, MVP candidate categories, then chemistry is not going to be an issue. Ultimately, we’re looking for players who are ready to hit the ground running. Ramo and Joseph and now Dev all understand how we run the ship and JT’s seen how we run everything because we bootcamped in DC for a week.
Q: Who are you looking forward to playing, besides the teams that traded you?
R: My answer is honestly one game at a time. We’re gonna try to win every basketball game in hot fashion, you know what I’m saying? Once I see the schedule, I’m marking that game on the calendar.
JT: Besides those two games (against Wizards District Gaming and Pacers Gaming), I feel like no other game is personal for us. Ramo and I are going to play for a new team, but a lot of the teams on the schedule are new, and we’re friends with a lot of these guys around the league. It’ll be a business trip every week no matter who we play. Two games will be more personal than others, but the other teams, we just want to handle our business and keep it moving.
Q: Demon JT, what do you have to prove this year? What statement do you want to make this season?
JT: Just to win. Personal accolades don’t mean much if your team doesn’t amount to anything. I’m just out to win in a dominant fashion. If that’s me scoring 15 or scoring 30, it’s just going back to being what I used to be, and being dominant. It’s not about what I do personally, it’s just about what I have to do to win. It can vary. It can be 10 points and 15 assists, or it can be 20 points and 6 assists. It’s just going back to dominating.
Q: What’s your favorite moment/memory from being in the 2K League so far?
A: [Monday] was our first day in our new practice facility. Over the past two weeks, we started packing up all of our old equipment, and I wouldn’t call it a favorite memory per se, but to the point that we’re already in Season 3, it was interesting to go back and take a look at how everything was done leading up before the very first season when we were still building out the league in general. Now, we’ve got a brand-new practice center, a brand-new front office… it’s probably the growth more than anything else, from all the camps, all the tournaments before Season 1, to the bootcamps we ran in Season 1, to Season 2 where we’re now in Vegas and Orlando, to Season 3 where (after going to Hong Kong last year) we’ve got an EU invitational, an APAC invitational coming up, as well as a completely different season structure with the addition of two more teams including one from Shanghai… my favorite moment would probably be watching the consistent growth rather than any singular accomplishment.
JT: My favorite part is this whole thing… or even the first day for us as players — Draft Day. Meeting everybody that I’ve known for years… it was everything paying off. When my name was called, when I had to get up on that stage, I was at a loss for words. I was overwhelmed. I felt like everything that I did had a reason, it had a purpose. That’s all you kind of want in life, is to have one, to find one. For me to find that and still be in it, it’s a blessing.
R: Draft Day was one of my favorite moments too. That’s the day my life changed. I was working my 9-5 job, grinding 2K, until that moment right there, everything paid off. I could actually do something I love, and get paid for it! Also, I loved THE TICKET tournament with the Pacers. I had the flu and I had to tough it out for my team and basically put them on my back. The event (SLAM Gaming) with the up-and-coming high school basketball prospects was a blessing. I thank the 2K League every day for that. The NBA 2K League Showcase game, the Women’s Development Camp, all these events that I probably would have never had the chance to do if not for the 2K League, I’m blessed. I have a lot of favorite memories. The League is on the come-up and I’m just happy to be a part of it, honestly.
Q: Do you ever stop and think about how cool it is to be a part of esports?
R: For sure. You get to go outside and tell somebody what you do for a living (professional esports pro), they’re going to look at you amazed and they won’t believe you. We’re just blessed with this opportunity, it’s just amazing. And on top of that, we get to play for an NBA organization. When I got drafted, my mom thought I actually made the NBA. It’s just amazing, honestly.
JT: It’s a crazy experience. There are so many things that have happened that I would have never guessed would happen. I remember when I was on the Wizards during Season 1, this one guy kept talking to me and I’m just assuming he’s some assistant coach or something. It ended up being Tommy Sheppard, who was GM of the team. I had no clue! But he just kept speaking to me about my game. He ran the whole NBA team, but he also knows about my game, and he knows what I need to do more of… for a while it’s not like we’re actual NBA stars, NBA players, so what do we really mean? But when you have people like Tommy and team owners watch your game and talk to you about it and critiquing you, that’s when it’s like, man, I’m a part of something big. I’m a part of something that’s life-changing.