Crammed into a couple of booths at a saloon in downtown Dallas, Mavs Gaming was having their final team dinner before embarking on their first road trip of the season the next morning.
Just over three weeks ago, the inaugural NBA2K Draft took place in New York City where each of the 17 franchises drafted their six-man roster from a pool of 102 players.
Since then, the players have been traveling to their respected cities and moving into their living quarters for the next six months. Once they got settled in, it was time to hit the virtual practice court as each team builds their identity heading into the Tip-Off Tournament starting on May 1.
For Mavs Gaming, that process hasn’t been so simple.
Three members of the six-man roster in Dallas reside outside of the United States. One of them arrived from Canada last week while their guy from the U.K will be meeting them in New York.
JLB just arrived in the United States from Germany earlier on Monday. Just a few hours before their last team dinner and under 24 hours before their flight to New York for their first game.
After visiting the United States for the first time back in 2010, this was the first time JLB has been in the states since turning 21 years old. As for his first thoughts on Texas, JLB answered with a German accent, “in Texas, everything is bigger right?”
But JLB has been a fan of the Dallas Mavericks for quite some time. And of course, Dirk Nowitzki means everything since they are both from Germany.
“He is basketball. If you play basketball it is because of Dirk,” he said. “That is how I got into basketball. I woke up in the morning, read the newspaper. Steve Nash, Mike Finley. Dirk Nowitzki.”
As for his talent on the virtual basketball court, head coach Jonah Edwards calls JLB “the best European player in Europe.”
So for the first time since the draft in early April, Mavs Gaming has their complete starting five in the United States. Under 24 hours before their flight to New York and just a few days before their first professional game together.
“Overall we are positive,” Roger Caneda, operations manager for Mavs Gaming said. “We literally just got Devillonn and (JLB) within the past two days. We are relying on our experience and knowledge of the game of 2K and basketball going into this.”
For the past three weeks, other members of the team have been practicing daily together learning their styles of play and building team chemistry.
“Over the past two weeks we have really found our identity,” Edwards said. “Just hoping that translates from scrimmages to stage. I say we have won roughly 80% of our scrimmages.”
Although they won’t have any practice time under their belts heading into their first matchup, the experience on the roster is something they are counting on to pull them through this first weekend.
Especially from number one overall draft pick, DatBoyDimez.
“He played in the big stage last year and he won it. His mental state of mind is there. He is fun to be around. He is a jokester, but when it comes to the game he takes it serious,” Caneda said.
In fact, Dimez just recently finished up with a press tour at ESPN in Los Angeles where he appeared on shows such as The Jump, First Take and others. He will join the team in New York City.
Once in New York, the team will go through the first of three big tournaments throughout the season.
The first couple of days consist of pool play where each team plays the other four teams in their pool. The top two teams of each pool move on to the single elimination tournament on Saturday. The winning team of the tournament will win $35,000.
Mavs Gaming starts their pool play on Thursday, May 3 at 8 p.m. CT. They will play their remaining three games of pool play on Friday.
Caneda says that people are calling their pool the “group of death”. The other four teams in their pool come from the NBA franchises of the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics.
Of the teams in their pool, one matchup is already gaining steam as Dimez will go head-to-head with the number two overall pick in the draft Fab. He is also a point guard like Dimez.
“Celtics have Fab, the number two pick,” Caneda said. “Him and Dimez have been going at it for years. Both of them are point guards. Fab is one of the greatest point guards out there.”
For the rest of the squad at Mavs Gaming, they are anxious to finally get this thing rolling and put their practice time to the test.
“I just want to win man and bring some money home. You want to win as much money as possible,” Dayfri said.
One of the more impressive things about the team is how they have bonded into somewhat of a brotherhood in just a few short weeks. At one point, Dayfri said that he “would run through a wall for that man” when referencing his friendship with Seem.
A brotherhood might be forming right now, but the fact is, the first time they take the court with each other will be their first professional game together. This isn’t something to gloss over.
“Hopefully these guys are ready to go despite not having everyone here,” Edwards said.
It is going to be a learning experience for everyone involved, even the league. From the new studio that was debuted in New York City this past week to the actual gaming servers built for the league, it will be a first for everyone.
But Mavs Gaming likes exactly where they are.
“I think we are good. We are right where we need to be,” Dayfri said.
“We have really found our mentality, but I don’t want to speak too much on it,” Edwards said. “People will find out quickly that we won’t make it easy for teams.”
When I asked them when they would return from New York, Edwards said that it depends on how well they do. If they make it out of pool play and deep into the tournament on Saturday, then returning on Sunday will most likely be the case.
In that case, they should just book the tickets now for Sunday.
You can watch Mavs Gaming May 3-5 on Twitch.tv/nba2kleague.