Hawks Talon GC improve and grow midst an unusual season

Atlanta Hawks GC team up for a team photo during the 2019 Media day. Photo Submitted by Kyle Hess Photography

When the NBA 2K League announced its virtual season in April, many questions arose, and some teams answered. For Hawks Talon GC, the Atlanta Hawks’ affiliate team, the abrupt changes could have affected the team’s chemistry. Not being able to spend time together outside of their ‘office’ may not have allowed their bond to peak as a unit. Then again, the other 22 teams are able to say the same thing. 

Instead, the season was full of growth and learning about one another. The team returned one player, Andrew Valle (MrStylez), and drafted five others, including Michael Diaz-Cruz (Bp), a finalist for last year’s MVP.

But shortly after media day in February, everything changed. Maybe it was the coronavirus or maybe the little time the team spent in-person, that led to a 7-9 record this season.

When asked about his thoughts following the conclusion of the team’s season, Hawks Talon head coach Wesley Acuff chuckled. 

“It’s been a long journey, it’s been a long season, a lot of challenges,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted; we missed the playoffs by maybe a game and some points.”

A number of players thrived for Hawks Talon, each possessing their own incumbent roles on both ends of the floor.

On the offensive end, Bp played a pivotal role in each game. His 26.4 points and 7.8 assists per game were both top-15 in the league. 

But inside, it was Levi Lamb (Lee) who stole the show. The rookie finished the year with the highest field goal percentage at almost 75% in addition to his 12.4 rebounds and his 2.4 blocks per game.

“He really, really showcased what he’s capable of and probably had a higher ceiling if we had done some things a little bit different,” Acuff said.

While the team finished 7-9, Acuff emphasized that many positives came out of the remote season. The team consistently gave it their all, which is something that cannot be taught to everyone, especially in times of adversity.

Acuff also expressed joy in Bp’s backcourt partner, Mykel Wilson (Kel).

“I’m definitely happy for Kel, that he had the season he had, improving a lot from last year and being able to come in here and carry the offensive load, or help carry the offensive load,” Acuff said.

Acuff also praised MrStylez and Kwan Niblack Jr. (followTHEGOD) for their incredible contributions to the team. Niblack lost his mother in mid-July, and the team and the 2K community was able to comfort him.

Of course, the team will look ahead to the future soon. Will any players remain? It seems likely. After all, Acuff and his team knew what they were looking for on draft night earlier this year.

“That’s one of those mental things: you’ve got it, or you don’t,” Acuff said. “They need me to keep them motivated and to keep the energy high, and I need them to do the same thing for each other and for themselves.”

For himself, a former competitive NBA 2K gamer himself, Acuff will continue to improve as a coach moving forward in his new role.

“I think I grew in that area, allowing the players to be players and not sort of dictate as much but just providing suggestions that I think could help us in winning situations,” he said

Sure, the team never had the chance to compete while sitting next to each other in New York, but this experience is one that Acuff will not forget soon.

“I think I was able to build stronger relationships with the team this year,” he said. “I was able to learn a lot and be able to help the guys see things that they maybe couldn’t see while they were wrapped up inside the game a little bit better this year.”