With opener, Pistons GT gives fans opportunity ‘to watch sports again’

By Vince Ellis, Special to PistonsGT.com

NBA fans aren’t privy to the trash-talking that goes on during games.

But it’s a main marketing avenue for the NBA 2K League that’s fighting for notice in its third season.

Pistons Gaming Team employs one of the foremost practitioners in gamer Ramo Radoncic.

One of the league’s top players, the New York native laughs before explaining the roots of his aggressive banter while manning the controller.

“That’s the New York in me,” Radoncic said. “Playing basketball at a young age in New York, I feel like that’s what we do.

“We get down, we get gritty. We love to trash-talk each other, try to get into each other’s heads.”

For Detroit area fans missing sports action because of leagues have suspended operations to adhere to nationwide stay-home orders during the COVID-19 crisis, there is an opportunity to see Radoncic’s trash-talking up close.

ESPN2 will air Pistons GT’s season opener Tuesday night (9 p.m.) against Wizards District Gaming.

The sports network has televised the first two weeks of gameplay while Pistons GT received byes.

It hasn’t been decided if ESPN2 will televise the coming weeks, but games are also available via YouTube and Twitch, the web-based gaming platform geared toward esports. Games will also be available on the ESPN app.

But with the return of legacy sporting events still only a wish, it presents an opportunity for Pistons GT and its competitors in the 23-team league.

“Now there’s a way for everyone nationally to watch sports again in as close to the normal sense as possible,” Pistons GT general manager Adam Rubin said.

“This is the NBA video game so it’s as close as anyone’s going to get to traditional sports in the current climate when everyone is shut down waiting to see when it’s safe to go back to playing again.”

Pistons GT is trying to bounce back from a 2-14 record and last-place finish in the league’s season.

At one point, Pistons GT lost 13 matches in a row before winning the season finale.

There were losses by 41, 34, 25 and 22 points.

It was a far cry from the initial season in 2018 when the franchise reached the playoffs.

A lot went wrong. Rubin and coach Duane Burton, who was voted coach of the year in the inaugural season, decided to reconfigure the roster.

They reacquired big man Radoncic, who led the team that first season, from Pacers Gaming.

The six-man roster features mostly NBA 2K veterans and brings back Joseph Marrero, who has spent all three seasons with Pistons GT.

The team was preparing for the upcoming season when Gov. Whitmer issued a stay-at home order on March 23 that continues.

The team was scheduled to fly to New York that day to begin the season, which was ultimately delayed until May 5. The first six weeks of the season will be played remotely. Matches will be played under a best-of-three format.

The team members self-quarantined at a nearby apartment complex and NBA 2K activity ceased for two weeks.

But while the league has been action for two weeks, team members have been practicing remotely, with equipment brought to apartments.

Radoncic thinks the developing chemistry bodes well.

“I feel like I got my brothers with me, these are people I came up with in the NBA 2K community and it feels good to have guys like that on my team because when you want to win, you’re not just winning with your teammates, you’re winning with your brothers and there’s no better feeling than that,” Radoncic said.