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NetsGC ready to follow in Nets’ footsteps of building a winning culture in season three

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Joe Tsai of course owns the Nets, Liberty and the Long Island Nets as well as Barclays Center, but he also owns Nets Gaming Crew, one of the NBA’s esports teams. Chris Milholen visited with NetsGC.

David L. Nemec

Nets Gaming Crew (NetsGC) — the Nets NBA 2K League affiliate is entering their third season and hopes they’re ready to follow in the Brooklyn Nets’ — and now the New York Liberty’s — footsteps of building a winning culture.

“Brooklyn is thriving right now as everyone knows and we want to do our part in being a presence in the playoffs and hoping to compete for a championship,” said Ivan Curtiss, the NetsGC’s General Manager, speaking from the crew’s studio space at Barclays Center, told NetsDaily.

The Crew is one of 22 affiliated with NBA clubs, joining the league in its second year back in 2018. The 23rd team is the Gen. G Tigers of Shanghai. It competes during the summer months, ending with a championship tournament in August. Like their counterparts in BSE Global, the Crew has set rosters (of six,) a trade season, playoffs and a Draft filled with hope.

The Nets 2K League affiliate finished ninth during the previous regular season and advanced to their first playoff appearance in franchise history last August. This time around with their regular season opening-up on May 26 against the Magic Gaming — Orlando’s 2K League affiliate — there’s a different vibe around the six-man team from Brooklyn.

“We all have a pretty good relationship with one another. This is a lot different of a team than we had last year. This team coming in is friends with one another. Everybody is cool with one another. We all have known each other for a little bit so it’s a lot different than the situation we had last year,” said Josh “Choc” Humphries the league’s leader in assists last season. “Last year, a lot of guys didn’t know each other, we didn’t know how we would be.”

Despite finishing 8-8 on the regular season last year, the team hasn’t been receiving the recognition they believe they deserve and are already being called a non-contending team. Curtiss knows his players all have that common goal of improving on last season’s mark.

“With the guys that I have, they want to win. They feel often disrespected and looked at in a negative light that they don’t always agree with just because of having the voice that they have and expressing their opinions which is common in today’s society. They want to be able to prove some people wrong and more importantly, prove themselves right,” Curtiss said. “They know I have full confidence in them, believe in them and I can see us this year doing a lot more winning than what we did last year.”

Connor “Shotz” Rodrigues, one of the league’s most prolific big men, was acquired as part of a three-team deal in November. NetsGC’s General Manager explained his value “Shotz” brings on and off the virtual court.

“That was one of the top centers in the league. He’s been that since he’s been in the league and we are just grateful to have him. He’s been big not only on the virtual court but off the virtual court as well and helping build the brand for NetsGC,” said Curtiss on acquiring Shotz.

“Shotz” realizes the team has its eyes set on winning multiple tournaments during the season and the end goal of winning their first championship. Although locking in on the bright light at the end of the tunnel, he wants the team to put itself in a position to carve that path out before anything.

“You would like to set your goal to win a chip obviously or multiple tournaments but just from experience, the goal for the team for me is just to be a contender and put yourself in those positions to win tournaments, get into the playoffs, and to make noise in the playoffs,” “Shotz” added.

Wahid “Faiz” Faiz — a shooting guard out of Toronto who was drafted No. 33 in the 2021 NBA2K League Draft — was selected to help complement “Choc” in the backcourt and relieve some of the pressure off the well-known gamer.

“Faiz — our first pick at 31 — he definitely checks all the boxes for that. He’s also a playmaker will the ball in his hands but he’s primarily a scorer. With Choc having a stable backcourt mate, that’s going to help us in the long run,” said Curtiss on selecting Faiz.

He already foresees the potential the Nets gaming affiliate contains. Faiz is ready to lock in and put in the extra hours to help ensure the team heads into the postseason as one of the top teams in the league and hopefully become an eventual title contender.

“Everyone on this team has expectations that we win. I think we have everything it takes to be contenders this year, so I know personally I’ll be putting in a lot of hours both at practice and when I get home, I’m going to be putting in the hours and making sure my level of play is where it needs to be,” Faiz said.

Beyond looking ahead at the end goal, the team and its players want to capitalize on the opportunity of winning banners and midseason tournaments during the regular season to help forge that winning culture and ultimately raise the confidence of the group for the road ahead.

“I don’t necessarily have specific goals. I’m not somebody that’s rimming by accomplishments or driven by awards or anything like that. For us, we all have an expectation of going out there and winning as much as possible,” Choc said.

“I’d like to win a banner. A banner is one of the tournaments. I would like to win at least one of those and I want to compete for a chip. I just want to be competitive and I think if we’re constantly in the mix, in the loop, always pushing, and in that winner’s group and winners bracket competing for an opportunity to win the whole thing, that’s what I really care about. I don’t really care about my personal awards or anything like that.”

While NetsGC is chasing banners, mid-season tournaments, and forging a winning culture to follow down the path of the Brooklyn Nets, the franchise has received great support along the way, highlighted by Joe Tsai’s involvement.

Tsai — who is one of two owners that own an NBA team, WNBA team, G League team, 2K affiliate, and an arena — has provided the franchise with great support, said Curtiss. In addition, the Long Island Nets — the Nets G League affiliate — has collaborated with NetsGC for multiple seasons. Curtiss is grateful for the support the franchise has received and the support has added an additional layer of motivation to be competitive and become a winner in the league.

“It’s huge and sometimes it’s just hard to put it into words. You need everyone to buy in to make it thrive and everything and anything we needed or asked for to help make us a better team has been provided. I personally take it as an oath to be able to fulfill being competitive, being a winner, and everyone being able to be proud of their part with NetsGC,” Curtiss said.

“That has been important to me since day one. I’ve said it’s been a dream job, but it’s been a dream destination because they up the ante and really made me be proud that I’m a part of BSE Global.”

Indeed, Tsai understands esports. He invested $10 million to become a minority owner in G2 Esports, one of the most recognizable esports organizations in the world back in 2019. So he gets the value of the business and the brand.

The Nets 2K League affiliate has its own studio space inside Barclays Center, located on Suite Level A. The space, which was initially the Nets’ corporate board room, was converted three years ago and is a gamer’s paradise filled with gaming monitors, PlayStation 5’s and decorative gaming chairs and equipment.

Outside of building a winning culture on the virtual court, the franchise has put extra emphasis on being winners beyond the monitors by helping out the community throughout its three-year tenure — which is a big part of their culture.

“This is competitive esports, but for us outside of ssports, we focused on education, mental health, veterans — those have been our pillars in the community that we wanted to be a presence in and not only in the gaming aspect,” Curtiss said.

You can watch the Nets 2K League affiliate open their third season against the Magic Gaming on May 26 in a two-game mini-series, beginning at 7:00 PM ET. Their season-opener can be viewed on Twitch and on YouTube Gaming.