TURNUPDEFENSE is excited and ready to be the face of Gen.G, the NBA 2K League’s first team outside of North America. With that comes a certain level of leadership that the third-year vet can and will bring to the table. The soft-spoken defensive wizard will be looking to do what it takes to motivate the roster around him come game time, but according to TURNUP, leadership doesn’t always have to come from being loud on the stage.
NBA2KLeague.com spoke to the Season 2 champion to see how he’ll balance playing for his third organization in three years with playing at a high level and doing what it takes to win.
Q: How does it feel to represent Gen.G and be the first-ever NBA 2K League player to rep an expansion team from China?
T: It feels great, honestly. Coming off the championship, I would have thought that no other team outside of T-Wolves Gaming would feel as good to me, but this is a perfect situation for me. Los Angeles is my hometown, so I’m going back home. I can’t be any happier. On other teams I was on, I was just trying to fit in. With this team, I’m the first pick. It’s big for a Chinese team to enter our league. I think it’s a huge deal, period. If I had to choose Gen.G or any other team to play for this season, I’m sure I would have chosen Gen.G. I’m happy I was drafted!
Q: What’s it like to be a part of the international growth of the NBA 2K League? Is there an opportunity for the league to grow into other markets beyond the APAC one?
T: I think it’s great that a Chinese team joined the league. I think that was a big step. To be the first person to suit up for Gen.G, it’s just crazy. It’s unbelievable to me, when I think about it.
Q: What will you find to be the most challenging parts of repping a brand-new expansion team?
T: Coming from winning the (Season 2) championship to a whole new team, I have to now find five new teammates, that’s the only thing that makes me a little nervous. I don’t know who’ll be in the draft pool — I don’t know how the draft will go. But, I’m pretty sure we’ll just put the work in and be good for next year.
Q: Set the scene for T-Wolves Gaming during that postseason and championship run. What was it like for you to go through that?
T: It was crazy! I felt like once we hit our groove (towards the end of the regular season), everyone gelled off the court, and it transitioned on the court. I felt like we were unbeatable, honestly. The team, our chemistry, coaching was perfect… I’m pretty sure Gen.G can replicate it though.
Q: What will you miss the most about T-Wolves Gaming?
T: I’ll probably miss the guys the most. We were so close. I don’t think any team was as close as we were. I think that’s what I want to build with my new team. The chemistry off the court, I didn’t think was important, but I honestly think it’s 50/50 with your on-the-court abilities. When you get along so well off the court, you fix all the gameplay mistakes, and it makes the game easier. I don’t know how, but chemistry is the key.
Q: We talked to Mama Im Dat Man recently and that’s what we call ‘The Secret’ in basketball. That certain sauce that separates championship teams from everyone else. But Turnup, in theory, this is technically the third expansion team that you’ve been a part of in your 2K League career. You were with Cavs Legion GC in year 1, T-Wolves last year, now Gen.G for season 3. What lessons have you learned from these teams and what are you bringing over to Gen.G from them?
T: From year 1, I’ve seen not as much coaching and not as much chemistry throughout the league. For me personally, I didn’t think it was that important, so year 2, once I actually saw great coaching and on-point chemistry that transitioned onto the court, that’s what I want to bring to Gen.G. I know that’s important now. I just want everyone to get along, work hard and have fun.
Q: It’s just you on the team right now. How do you want to see Gen.G utilize all those draft picks to round out an OP roster? What types of players are you hoping to help recruit?
T: I just want people that are hungry. I don’t want anyone who’s satisfied. I kind of want a roster of all-new players. I feel like I want young, hungry players who want to work and win. That’s how I’m looking at it.
Q: You talked about good coaching just now — what kinds of traits do you look for in a coach to define him or her as a ‘good’ coach?
T: A great coach watches a lot of film and he picks up on tendencies that he sees but we as players don’t see. With the T-Wolves, coach Butler watched more film than we did! I felt so prepared coming into games. Going out there and playing was so easy knowing everything before it happens. I want a coach for Gen.G that works as hard as we do. If he’s not playing the game, he can study film, plays… I don’t want any coach who’s just there to hang out, or think that just because 2K is a video game, the players can handle all their business and everything. I don’t like that.
Q: What was the biggest difference for you playing with the Cavs in Season 1, not getting retained and then ending up on the T-Wolves for Season 2. What was the biggest dichotomy between those two teams?
T: With the Cavs, I was a little more satisfied with just being in the league. With the T-Wolves, I came in more hungry because I didn’t get retained. I had to play 6th man, I played in the MyTeam finals and lost (prior to Season 2), so I felt like I came into Season 2 a lot hungrier.
Q: I wanted to bring that up. You lose the MyTeam tournament in the final round, and then you get a vindication by winning in the Season 2 Finals. How did you handle that MyTeam loss and how sweet was it to redeem yourself in a way during the 2K League Finals?
T: I took the loss badly. I felt like I was the better player. Honestly, it drove me to work harder. I didn’t want to make it to the Finals to lose again. Once we got another chance in the 2K League Finals, I gave it everything I had.
Q: Let’s go on the court now. You’re a high IQ player and a lock who’s one of the best we have in the league right now. What are the challenges Gen.G faces with building a team around a lock, versus a team building around a point guard or even Hornets Venom building around Type the Center?
T: We have a great first-round pick at No. 5. Our challenge is not making the wrong pick there. We have the perfect chance to pick a perfect PG. It doesn’t matter if we build around a lock. As long as you can blend five great draft picks together–and even with the T-Wolves last year. I wouldn’t say most people had BearDaBeast ranked as the best PG available. But, eventually we kept working and we worked around him, and that’s what it comes down to. It’s a video game, and anybody can win. Whoever wants it the most can win. Whether they build around me, Type, whatever team works hard and wants to win, they’ll win.
Q: Do you appreciate the fact that you’re one of the best defensive players in the league? Would you rather be known for being a high-scoring point guard?
T: I always loved playing defense in any game mode or game. Defense has always been my thing. Honestly I don’t care what position I play. I’m just trying to win. If the coach tells me to play the point, center, whatever… I’m pretty sure after giving me a month or two, I’ll learn it and play it.
Q: What are some of the aspects of your personal game that you’re working on improving this offseason?
T: I’ve been working a lot on offense. I feel like I’ve been playing good defense for a while. My offense is decent, but I want it to take off. Since the team has to be built around me, I might need to do more. I’m trying to become a more complete player. I’ve also been playing every game mode. That just helps you know the game better, learning the animations. That’s given me the edge over everybody. I play every mode: Park, Pro-Am, MyTeam, Regular Quick Match.
Q: What do you look to identify when watching film on other point guards as you figure out your gameplan on how to defend them?
T: I watch for their tendencies to see what they like to do on the court. A point guard like Mama Im Dat Man likes to shoot the 3. I gotta have my center play hard in that case. A PG like BearDaBeast or Dimez, they want to drive, so I have to have my center on the same page I am. So I watch film and try to figure out how PGs want to play, and I try to gameplan ways to stop it any way I can. They’re great players, so it’s tough, but hey, one of us has to come out on top.
Q: You mentioned earlier about wanting to partner up with new, hungry players this year. Do you feel ready to take on more of a leadership role? Are you ready for the added pressure that comes with being a “face of a franchise”?
T: I feel like I’m ready. I’ve played for two franchises where I got a pretty good idea of what a leader has to do. I’m a veteran player now, but I don’t think being a vet… for example, I think Bear was probably the best leader that I’ve seen in the league. Everybody said he was the best leader in the league, and that was his first year. I think it’s not always about being a vet. Anybody can lead as long as they have the ropes of the league and what needs to be done. Bear didn’t do anything over the top (to lead), but he brought us together and that’s the key to leadership. I think I’m ready for doing that, too.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about moving back home to Los Angeles?
T: I feel super good about moving back. That’s the best part! I’m from LA. I live in Vegas now but have family there. It’s gonna be wild for me to have everyone back there. I’ve been missing LA for a long time. I was already thinking about moving back, so I get to go back. Everything’s just falling into place.
Q: How do you re-stoke the fire to want to win again on this new team, coming off a championship?
T: Wanting to win is in my nature. I’ve never liked losing. I’m not the type that rages if I lose, but I always want to get better and better. I know we won the championship, but me being the first pick for Gen.G, I definitely have something to prove. I can’t just be satisfied with winning a championship with the T-Wolves. Gen.G is a new team and I have to earn it again.
Q: Are we going to see you stand up and start barking at people during games this year? Or are we in for more quiet demeanor TURNUPDEFENSE?
T: (Laughs) Honestly, if someone told me that they wanted me to do that, I wouldn’t mind doing it. I don’t know if that helps the team or not, though. Bear used to do it more (earlier on in Season 2), and then he said he felt like it didn’t help the team so he stopped doing it. It’ll all depend on what kind of team is around me and what we need. If we need to be fired up, then yeah. But if we’re just chill as a team, or if someone else wants to be loud, then it’ll be different.
Q: Throwing it back now to the moment where you clinched a playoff berth last season. As soon as Bear passes you the ball (before you hit the game-winning 3), what are you thinking? Did you think “oh my god he just passed up an open layup!” or are you thinking “YES! It’s my time!”
T: Honestly in my head I’m thinking, “shoot shoot shoot!” I was thinking he was about to go up. Then when he passed I was like, “oh my goodness!” I didn’t want to go to Overtime there. Mama was having a good game and was in a rhythm late. I’m like, man, let me get out of this game and greened the shot.