Entering Week 4 of the NBA 2K League season, one team reigns above all others: Raptors Uprising GC.
Looking down at the rest of the league with a perfect 6-0 record, the Uprising have found a formula of success that simply can’t be beat for now.
Hot on their tails has been Warriors Gaming Squad, who is also perfect so far, but has played only five matches.
Both of these powerhouse squads are on a bye this week, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to discuss.
Here’s a quick look back at the week that was — and what’s ahead in the 2K League.
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As mentioned off the top, the Uprising once again enjoyed a perfect week of competition, this time beating Knicks Gaming and Hawks Talon GC, both in 2-0 match sweeps.
For the second time this season, Uprising star Kenneth “Kenny Got Work” Hailey was named player of the week for his stellar performance. He averaged 34.3 points, 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals in the four games the Uprising played.
So far this season, Hailey has performed at an MVP level, and the comfort level he’s found can be largely attributed to the chemistry the Uprising inherently has built into it.
In particular, the acquisition of Trent “Timelycook” Donald in the first round of this year’s draft has really helped unlock Hailey’s full potential.
“Me and Kenny’s experience with each other has been wonderful and I’ve been playing with him for five, six years,” Donald said over the phone. “So it’s like chemistry as in Shaq-Kobe, LeBron-Wade, Jordan-Scottie Pippen. We just know each other on and off the court.”
Donald and Hailey have played together since NBA 2K15 and even won a $250,000 tournament together as part of NBA 2K17’s Road to the All-Star Game tournament, a year before the 2K League formally launched.
Given the success they’ve had with one another, it isn’t much of a surprise to hear that Donald has been on the Uprising’s radar for a while.
The Uprising has wanted to pair Hailey with Donald since the very first season, but due to rules at the time (and the fact both Hailey and Donald reached the 2K League as point guards), when the Uprising took Hailey they were unable to scoop up Donald, too, who ended up going to Kings Guard Gaming in the third round.
But because of some immature and bad judgment on Donald’s part, the opportunity arose for the Uprising to finally get their dream backcourt.
Unfortunately, Donald was suspended for the entirety of the 2019 2K League season for violating the player code of conduct in the form of sharing inappropriate and offensive videos over social media, according to a release from the league.
The year off gave Donald time to reflect on his actions, and with the birth of his daughter during this time, he was able to come to a realization and grow from the mistake he made.
“With the suspension it was a sensitive topic, man. It was a re-post I posted on Facebook which was careless and irresponsible at the time,” Donald said. “You’re supposed to be representing the NBA, you’re representing yourself, you’re representing your family, so you’ve gotta be on point at all times if you’re gonna be a professional. Like, it’s gaming, but it’s still the same that you’re a professional athlete at the end of the day…
“So that’s what I learned over the year. Plus, I was having a daughter at the time, so I’ve gotta be there for her and I know that I’ve gotta provide for my family. So that’s another thing that made me realize that you can’t just do anything anymore. You’ve gotta provide as much as possible and be more accountable for yourself.”
During this time of self-reflection, Donald buckled down and focused on the game, all the while keeping in touch with old pal Hailey — because if he was going to make his comeback, who better to do it with than one of his best friends?
“Last season, I got suspended so I was out for year and, basically, me and Kenny were always talking about how we can play with each other in the league. So [I would be] watching Uprising games and I was just talking to Kenny about how they played and next year. And he just said, ‘Man, if you’re right there, man, we’re gonna get you because I know what we’re gonna do when we’re together.’
“So I was just locking in on the game and just playing and making sure I stay sharp. Ain’t too many people see me play so they really thought I couldn’t play the game as well as I usually did, but I came out, I’m proving myself and me and Kenny it’s just crazy that we’re doing this at all levels. It’s just special.”
That Donald has managed to surprise opponents is a surprise in and of itself. In that first season, he built a reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and those defensive skills have carried over to the Uprising this season.
“I try to beat people to their spots and just read my opponents’ tendencies and see where they like to go and things and just try to beat them to their spot,” he said. “It’s basically like real basketball but at the same time it’s 2K and requires hand work. There’s just certain buttons you’ve gotta press to play defence at a high level. And the team we’ve got, they let me be me.”
At 6-0, letting Donald do what he does best seems to be an effective game plan for the Uprising so far. And they’ll take this bye week to re-affirm everything that’s been working for them and any weaknesses they found they believe they’ll need to shore up before getting back at it next week.
“We’re still working, we’re still scouting our opponents, we know we’ve got a bullseye on our back right now,” Donald said. “But at the same time we still feel we’re the underdogs and that people underestimated us all season. They thought we would be a team that would come into the season and can’t compete. So that’s been a motivation within this team and we’re just ready for once this bye week passes.”
Around the League
With both the Uprising and Warriors Gaming Squad not playing this week, this gives an opportunity to some of the one-loss and undefeated teams that have only played one or two games so far – such as Blazer5 Gaming and Jazz Gaming – to make up some ground.
For instance, Tuesday night’s matchup between Mavs Gaming (4-1) and T-Wolves Gaming (3-1) should be of particular interest.
The T-Wolves are the league’s defending champions and the Mavs feature the first-ever pick in 2K League history, Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd.
This is about as close to a legacy matchup as you’re gonna find within this burgeoning league.