After speaking with Wizards District Gaming about their crazy-successful season and their expectations heading into the NBA 2K League Finals Delivered by DoorDash, one thing is clear: THE JOB’S NOT DONE!
Anchored by vets like Dayfri (a Season 3 MVP candidate who’s balled out literally all year), ReeseDaGod (a WDG member since Season 1) and Newdini (the winningest player in the League) and energized by new blood (No. 1 pick JBM, rookie Just_Awkward and Sixth Man BRICH, The District feels like they’ve finally unlocked a level of personal and competitive cohesion that has yet to be attained in DC.
After playing the best 2K of their season and unseating the previously-undefeated Raptors Uprising GC, one can see how momentum might in fact be on their side. They understand though that an equally tough foe in Warriors Gaming Squad stands in their way of the championship trophy, and they’re ready to lock in one more time to “complete the job” and achieve greatness.
NBA2KLeague.com sat down with Dayfri, JBM, ReeseDaGod and Coach of the Year candidate Pat Crossan on Wednesday to check in on the DC vibe heading into the biggest match of their careers.
Put this postseason run into perspective!
JBM: To start the season, we all had this goal (to make the Finals). We knew that if we didn’t take it week by week, it wouldn’t be possible. There were times that it felt so far away. There were weeks in the middle of the season where we started off really good, and then we didn’t play too well in THE TIPOFF tournament. It almost felt like we’d be a decent team, but it was going to fall through. Then about halfway through the season, I think THE TURN tournament turned us around. We realized how good we are. Going into the playoffs, I didn’t feel incredibly confident, but we had put in so much work prior, even with each other off the court. I knew that if we put it all together, I didn’t think anyone was going to beat us. Coach Pat the whole season talked about hitting the high notes at the right time, and I think we did that. I’ve now never felt so confident. I feel like we can beat any team on this game right now, and I think that’ll show on Friday. Everything just clicked at the right time. I don’t think any of us saw this Week 1, but now, all the little things transpired into something that we all feel so confident in playing on the biggest stage right now.
ReeseDaGod: Beginning of the year, we didn’t know how good we’d be. Watching Just_Awkward in the Wizards classic, he was a great player. Newdini, he’s always been a great player. JBM, I knew he was great watching him in the offseason. We just had to come together and play great basketball. Me being here three years, I never thought about being in a Finals, but we’re here, and we’re ready to compete in the Finals. I’m truly blessed to be here.
Coach Pat: For us, it was obviously a huge turnaround from last season. We ended Season 2 7-9 and kept only two of our guys. We had to draft four new guys, so this is probably as fast a turnaround as you could hope and imagine. We’re obviously not satisfied yet, we have to go out and play. But, we’ve spoken about building upon our failures during the season, and even though we were 13-3, you can look back to winning the pre-season tournament that Hornets Venom GT hosted, that was a great starting point for us, but in THE TIPOFF we went 2-2, we didn’t advance out of our stage and we felt like that showed us that we have to bring it no matter what team we play against. You have to come every day to play. In THE TURN, playing against the best teams in the league, there were matches where we had to make stops and get big buckets in the fourth quarter, and that showed us that we could compete against those best teams. Losing to Raptors Uprising GC in that tournament put a sour taste in our mouths because those games were close as well. We had said at that point that we’d see them in the playoffs. It’s hard to beat any team multiple times during a season, and when we played them again in the Semifinals, our guys were as locked in as I’ve ever seen. I’m really proud of them, but we know the job’s not done yet.
Dayfri: I remember in Season 1 when I was with Mavs Gaming, our team had a lot of high expectations and we didn’t meet them. Then I got traded, and last year things didn’t go our way early in the season and we ended up 7-9. I think this organization could have gave up on us, but Reese and I started over, and I was happy they wanted to build around us. I was happy they took our input in the offseason and took the right steps in scouting. We had a bunch of guys come in to help us. Going into Season 3, it was the most confident I ever felt going into a season. We were the most prepared. We couldn’t have hit our draft picks any better. Jack coming in, he was a super, super confident guy. Super competitive. Guy comes in and just does his job. You look at Newdini and Just_Awkward, they fit right in. Dini’s the most winningest player in the league and Awkward is a bookworm. I can’t get the kid to stop watching film! Last night at 3 in the morning, he’s up blaring music, watching film, shooting with Reese and super excited for Friday. It’s nice to have a team that works hard and it shows on the court. I think everyone on our team is a leader in their own way. It’s super, super exciting going into the Finals with this team. I can’t wait.
How the heck did you guys defeat a previously undefeated team in Raptors Uprising GC to get to this point? A team that steamrolled the entire League until that last Semifinals match-up against you guys?
Dayfri: I did a podcast after we lost THE TURN, and one of the guys on that podcast, Dave, is a huge Raptors fan. He was talking so much about No. 1 offense this, No. 1 defense that for the Raptors. The Raptors averaged 80 points a game throughout the whole season, but they scored 55 and 56 points against us in THE TURN. I knew that if we had solid offense and stayed composed, keep JBM on his feet and keep the offense afloat if he did get plucked, implement Reese and Dini more, find a way to use Just_Awkward more, we could be the Raptors. Week 1, we played them in our first game and we were up 1-0 on them and we were up 11 at halftime in Game 2. Everyone had this fear of the Raptors, but when we came into the Semis, we knew that if we played our game, they couldn’t beat us. If we don’t mess up, they can’t win.
I was more nervous about the Kings Guard game than I was during the Raptors game! I thought Kings Guard was a wild card, with their young point guard, you just don’t know what you’d get from him. We ended up taking advantage of it in the end, but coming into the Semis, I think we came into the game being the most confident we had been all year. Once we beat the Kings, we had the confidence that we’re here, we are good, we know that the Raptors were better than any other team in the league, but it felt good to finally beat that team. It doesn’t matter though if you don’t win the ring with it, so we need to make sure we capitalize this Friday. The Warriors are no slouches either, so we need to make sure we take care of business.
What has this MVP-caliber turnaround been like for you this season, Dayfri? We have guys in the league for all three years now who haven’t made it into the postseason, and here you are in the Finals. What’s that turnaround been like for you and where will you go from here?
Dayfri: The turnaround’s been crazy, honestly. In Season 1, I was an MVP candidate early in the season with Dimez, but we didn’t end up doing much with that momentum. I told myself that if I ever got another good point guard, I’d make it work no matter what. Season 2 didn’t quite go our way. I think we finished well but didn’t click fast enough. I knew that I was still a winner, and if we put a good team together with the right five guys here in DC, everything would fall into place. I knew we’d be a Top 5 team in the league. I never thought we’d be in this situation where we’d take down Goliath (Raptors Uprising GC in the Semifinals) and we’d be playing Warriors Gaming Squad in the Finals, one of the winningest teams in the League, and we’d knock out Kings Guard Gaming, a super young team that’s fun to watch– their defense was crazy. To be honest, I don’t think it’s even hit me that we’re definitely in a spot to win the championship. Looking past this, I think we’ll always have a winning culture in DC now and I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m glad I was part of the change, and I can’t be more thankful to be here.
You’re peaking at the right time Dayfri, your Playoff performances have been nothing short of amazing. You’ve now gone through two of the best frontcourts in the League in the postseason. When you’re in the zone like this, what does it feel like when you’re on the sticks?
Dayfri: I think it’s all about preparation. I’m telling you, me and Just_Awkward, we watch three series of film a day at 2, 3am in the morning. If you come into the game prepared and you’ve learned your opponent’s tendencies, you’re a step ahead of them. Obviously the Warriors will be prepared for us and the Kings and Raptors were both prepared for us too, but I feel like our whole team was on the same page and that allows me to play my defense. Our rotations are on point. We have Dini dropping, Jack rotates to the corner, Reese is dropping, we can play how we want. My play is all credit to my team. I didn’t play like this for a reason the last two seasons. You need all five to be able to do it. I don’t look at it as being in the zone, I look at it as being prepared, and having your team on the same page.
Coach, Dayfri is talking about Wizards District Gaming’s growth year over year, and can you expand on that growth and development from your perspective? What did you add to the equation to make it all work this year?
Coach Pat: Every year you want to improve on something, whether it’s working on how you study film, adding statistical improvements, but Dayfri’s said it, all the credit goes to our players. I have full trust in all of them to make plays. Even for the guys who have been here just one season with us, they’ve all impressed me with their in-game adjustments, how they communicate to each other, their rotations. I like to say that it’s really all them. It’s been all them all season long. This could be the best team we ever have here in DC. Everyone is locked in and everyone has an expectation to come here and win every game. It’s really an amazing feeling. When you’re in a close game, at times you get a thought of ‘oh it’s going to happen the same way it happened last year.’ But you can’t think like that. Once our guys started making plays down the stretch, the culture was set. Dayfri and ReeseDaGod have been here before, they were expected to do big things this season to set an example for our new guys. We brought in Newdini, like Dayfri said, is one of the winningest players in the League, because we needed some Playoffs experience. That was very important for us to get a veteran leader, but our young guys have also stepped up. We’re all firing on all cylinders, and we’ll go into the Finals playing to the best of our abilities.
Pat, you were a top Coach of the Year candidate. What separates great coaches from good ones in this League, in your opinion?
Coach Pat: Great question. I don’t care much about Coach of the Year. You’re likely to be Coach of the Year if you have really great players around you. We do, and it doesn’t matter to me if I had won that award or not. The championship was always the goal. And really, it’s all in our guys. I trust Dayfri to make plays and call plays. Same thing for JBM and Reese… You have to have a culture of trust, you have to be able to talk about failures we’ve had this season as a team, as individuals. If you never do that, you’ll never be able to learn. You’ll never grow as a person. Eventually, doing that will lead to growing as a team. Culture is a huge element for us, going from Season 1 to 2 to 3. When you have six guys who are bought in to that culture, make mistakes and be ok with correcting those mistakes when they see them- I think that separates the great teams from other teams in this League. Everyone has to be on the same alignment.
Reese, you’re the Wizards District Gaming vet! Talk about this amazing journey, having been here since Season 1.
ReeseDaGod: Yes sir, it’s been crazy. I just talked to my family about it, I’ve been here since Season 1. Making it into the first round of the Playoffs in SZN 1, I told myself that if I ever made the Playoffs again, I’m not going to come up short. This year, I’m going to help the team on offense and defense and do what it takes to get the W and win the whole thing. I’m surrounded by a great group of guys, the best Center in the League, JBM came in and knew what he had to do. Pat’s a great coach. I feel like this is the best organization, honestly, and I’m ready for the Finals.
Reese, more than any other player in the league, it seems like you’ve had to change your play style from year to year. Can you speak a little bit about your versatility?
ReeseDaGod: I feel like I wanted to win that badly that I’ll do whatever it takes for us to get the W. I’ll do whatever it takes to help my team win.
JBM, Mr. No. 1 pick! You’re the first No. 1 pick to make the Playoffs, and you’re also the first No. 1 pick to make the Finals! Has the expectations around being a No. 1 pick been on your mind this year, or once COVID hit, you decided to step back and take any pressure off?
JBM: I think prior to the draft, our entire draft class was being petty with each other. Everyone had something to prove. A lot of us were touting the BP build on retail, but I didn’t win like that on retail. I knew I could compete with everybody and on a level playing field, I liked my chances. I had that kind of expectation no matter where I was drafted to, so being drafted No. 1 didn’t change that. There was no added pressure. Me wanting to come in and prove that I was better than anyone else in that draft class was already there before the season started. That never took a toll on me or the team, and it didn’t deviate us from what we wanted to do as a team. There were some match-ups sure, where I was really focused in on. Playing Heat Check Gaming, GlennRatty and I went back and forth for a while, Gen.G with ShiftyKaii, the Knicks with Duck. For me it was important to show up in that match-up and win it.
JBM, you’ve progressed well throughout the season and hit some key shots that you had missed earlier on in the year. What do you attribute that growth to, specifically?
JBM: I think like Dayfri said, it’s all in the preparation. The more you prepare, the less nervous you are. You’re more lucky when you’re prepared, and I’ve always believed that. Coming into every game controlling what I can control prior to the game, then playing the game like I have nothing to lose. During THE TIPOFF, I probably played the worst 2K I played all season, our guys were saying that even if we play like this, our team is good enough to still win. That in itself- there’s not that much pressure to play a certain way. I’ve taken on that expectation of not having some crazy lofty expectation, to play with less pressure and play care-free. If I can slow down the game, even in my own thoughts and just play one possession at a time- it takes time to learn that and put things behind you. I think that’s what I’d really attribute it to.
Coach, this has been a wild season, and looking at your playoff opponents this year, you’ve played teams that have widely different play styles. How do you prepare differently for this Warriors team as opposed to how you prepared for a 16-0 Raptors team, or a No. 1 Defensive team like Kings Guard?
Coach Pat: (Laughs) They gotta play us too, right? We’ve watched a ton of film on them and we like to think that we know them very well. They might throw some things at us that we don’t expect, so we’ll have to adjust for that, but like we said, it’s all about preparation. In the Playoffs, it was win or go home. For the Finals, it’s ‘this is it!’ Win or lose, there are no games after this. We have to go into this game with everything we got. We have to be totally exhausted at the end of it. There can’t be any shoulda, woulda, coulda. We have to show up to play and perform. We’re excited to be here, but I’ll say it again: The job’s not done yet. The Warriors are just another team in our way of trying to get that championship.
What kinds of trash talk do you have planned for us this week if you win?!
DAYFRI: (Laughs) Me and CB13, we like and respect each other, but we hate losing to each other. I definitely don’t want to lose to him! I know JBM doesn’t either, he and CB13 are boys. I think this is going to be the most edge you’ll see from JBM and I all year. There’s no telling what can happen after the game. Hopefully we’re on top and we’ll be able to have some fun with it. We still gotta take care of business first.
Watch the NBA 2K League Finals Delivered by DoorDash on Friday, August 28th starting at 7 pm/et on ESPN2, Twitch and YouTube!