The Atlanta Hawks’ Talon Gaming Club’s foray into “THE TIPOFF” tournament (by AT&T) was not a long-last one. The squad was knocked out during the first round, losing one game against Orlando and then Sacramento. Despite the lackluster results, coach Wesley Acuff still found positives in the his players’ performance.
“You can just take one game specifically. After we took a loss in the first game, it would be easy to tuck and run because we really wanted to win that game against the Magic,” said coach Acuff.
“But we didn’t, we bounced back and got a huge win to give ourselves a chance to get out of the group.”
During those four games, Mykel “Kel” Wilson and Michael “BP” Diaz-Cruz carried the offense, as they often do. Diaz-Cruz in particular scored 25 or more points in three of the four games. Coach Acuff noted that their offense was actually more balanced than many teams, despite relying so heavily on two players.
“I think we have a good balance of offense. Our corner shooters knock down shots when we hit them with passes, so I think we are blessed to have two guys who can go and manufacture a basket on their own,” said coach Acuff. “Whereas there are many other teams who rely heavily or only on the point guard, so I feel good about having two guys who can produce some offense.”
COVID-19 has forced teams in the 2K league to play their games remotely. In the case of the Talon GC, this means players are all in separate residences as games go on. Other teams are able to meet together and at least play in the same room. While coach Acuff notices this, he doesn’t believe the setup puts his team at a disadvantage.
“Everyone is in a different situation based on their market due to the remote gameplay and COVID-19. For us, we have to get to the things that are working,” said coach Acuff. “We have three really big wins in the regular season, and we just need to zero in on what got us those three wins. I don’t think, as a team, we’re at a disadvantage because we’re not all in the same room.”
According to a June 17 press release, the 2K league has extended remote play for the rest of the 2020 season. Over the last few games, the matchups have been plagued by technical issues, which the coach admits are somewhat frustrating for the him and the team.
“I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard. But we can’t use that as an excuse,” said coach Acuff. “These are the circumstances, and we’re still able to play and have a season, so we’re fortunate for that. So we can’t use it as an excuse, but it definitely is hard dealing with technical issues, crashes, and waits in between games that kill the momentum.”
Despite some issues the team has with remote play, they do remain thankful for the opportunity to continue the season during the pandemic.
“We’re fortunate to be able to play our sport, so I’d never say it’s bad to play remotely since we all started gaming remotely,” said coach Acuff. “Obviously it’s different kind of energy being in the arena, and we do miss that feeling. But the safety and health of fans and all involved in our league comes first. When it’s time to return, the league will get back to normal, but for now this is our normal.”
With the TIP-OFF tournament in the past, Atlanta now needs to focus on the regular season, where they find themselves sitting the middle of league at 3-3 in their first six games. The Talon GC’s next game is on June 29 against the Warriors.
“We’re sitting right in that middle tier of teams, so obviously a couple of wins would put us above a few teams,” said coach Acuff. “That would be a more comfortable place, and that makes us closer to achieving our ultimate goal of making the playoffs.”