I miss the NBA. Here’s a simulation: The NBA 2K Players Tournament finished its first round of action on Sunday. Hosted by Ronnie “2K” Singh, a digital marketing director for 2K Sports and the face of the game, the four matchups were Domantas Sabonis vs. Montrezl Harrell, Rui Hachimura vs. Donovan Mitchell, Michael Porter Jr. vs. Devin Booker, and DeMarcus Cousins vs. Andre Drummond.
Sunday’s winners were Harrell, Hachimura, Booker, and Drummond. They’ll join Derrick Jones Jr., Deandre Ayton, Trae Young, and Patrick Beverley—who all won on Saturday—in the quarter finals on Tuesday, April 7 on ESPN 2. The first two days of this tournament have been the first we’ve seen from many of these players since the league suspended play on March 11, though Sabonis has been on TikTok. And while the gameplay has been a bit lackluster, the conversations on Sunday included a few non-2K revelations over the four (!) hours of play:
1. Cousins’s recovery is on track. When Drummond asked how his rehabilitation was progressing—Cousins tore his left ACL in August with the Lakers, his third significant leg injury in three years—during their first quarter of action, Cousins sounded optimistic and said that he was getting better every day. Cousins isn’t currently on a team, but he could be on his fourth in four years next season.
2. The players preselected eight teams to choose from throughout the tournament, though each team can only be used once. Among Drummond’s choices were the Cavaliers and the Wizards, both below-average teams. (When the season was suspended, Cleveland was 19-46, and Washington 24-40.) Including the Cavs makes sense on a sentimental level; it feels like a year has passed since the Pistons dealt Drummond at the deadline, but it was just two months ago, and the trade revealed how strongly he feels about loyalty. Drummond even pretended that he was going to select Cleveland before ultimately choosing the Lakers. But the Wizards? Besides the Ish Smith connection, that’s a wonderfully random challenge to bestow on himself. Still, Drummond’s Lakers beat Cousins’s Nets by a score of 101 to 49. So yeah, this is nothing like the NBA.
3. Booker was seated in a gamer chair. Combined with Booker’s video game acclaim—he played Apex Legends competitively against professionals this summer—the setup gives him no choice but to win the entire thing. That’s like showing up to your local gym in a full Lakers uniform with the purple headband. You can’t lose that pickup game. This is what’s at stake for Booker, a professional basketball player reduced to an amateur gamer: He can’t lose a tournament against someone playing on a couch next to decorative pillows. This round, Booker survived, beating Porter by 10 points.
4. Rui likes the theatrics:
5. Harrell and Sabonis chose their own teams, the Clippers and the Pacers, and both were surprised at their virtual selves. They chatted beforehand about sometimes hating playing themselves on the 2K screen because if anything goes wrong, they wonder whether they are really that bad. Harrell was in for a pleasant surprise: When 2K Trez was at the free throw line, he told Sabonis to watch his form. Then 2K Trez made the shot, and Harrell said, “That’s a lot better than it used to be!”
Sabonis, who admitted he hadn’t played much 2K, didn’t care for his 2K version, playfully begging his coach to take him out of the game. He also teased his play in real life; after 2K Sabonis drove inside, Sabonis said, “I went to the right so you know that’s inaccurate.” Again: nothing like the NBA!