By Sam Perley
An NBA 2K League season full of challenges and growth came to an end for Hornets Venom GT two weekends ago, following losses to Magic Gaming and Celtics Crossover Gaming in the Coinbase 2KL 3v3 Steal Open and THE TICKET Powered by AT&T, respectively.
These two tournaments provided Charlotte with one final opportunity to qualify for either/both the 3v3 or 5v5 NBA 2K League Playoffs. Starting on Wednesday night, the squad dropped its opening two games with Orlando in the best-of-five 3v3 series, but recovered to win Games 3 and 4 to force a winner-take-all Game 5.
Tied at 19-19 and with possession, Hornets Venom GT’s would-be game-winning layup agonizingly rolled just off the basket, leaving the door open for an eventual 3-pointer and series win for Magic Gaming. Orlando went on to sweep the Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai and Heat Check Gaming to claim the Eastern Conference Playoff berth, then beat Jazz Gaming 3-1 in the Finals to win the first-ever Coinbase 2KL Steal Open.
Two days later, Hornets Venom GT was back on the 5v5 court to face NetsGC in THE TICKET, marking the third consecutive year that these two teams had met in a season-ending elimination matchup. Thanks to 24 points and a season-high six steals from Glennratty and another 24 points and 14 rebounds from DJ, Charlotte knocked off Brooklyn, 71-65, to advance to the next round.
.@GlennWilkerson in his bag right now! 👜
— Hornets Venom GT (@HornetsVenomGT) August 13, 2022
Now pitted against Celtics Crossover Gaming, Hornets Venom GT raced out to a 21-10 lead before a lag-out forced a 30-minute delay. Boston took advantage of the reset to climb back into things, but still trailed by six heading into the closing frame. Charlotte couldn’t hold onto the lead though, losing the quarter by a 20-8 margin to fall, 59-53. Celtics Crossover Gaming would miss out on the East’s 5v5 Playoff spot following an ensuing 59-49 loss to Magic Gaming, which then lost to Mavs Gaming, 63-58, in THE TICKET Finals.
Not the results we ultimately wanted, but we'll be back and better than ever in Season 6 ✊🏽
— Hornets Venom GT (@HornetsVenomGT) August 16, 2022
All and all, Hornets Venom GT didn’t produce nearly the same results as it did across its first two NBA 2K League campaigns, a stretch that featured a pair of playoff berths and THE TURN title in 2021. Offseason retirements of Sherm, Trap and PeteBeBallin combined with the season-long absence of All-Star guard Rigby forced Head Coach and General Manager BiggWest to embrace a massive roster overhaul and youth movement this year.
With All-NBA 2K League power forward Crown the team’s lone returning player from Season 4, Charlotte drafted three rookies in Nick, DJ and KingHaad, while also adding Season 3 draftee Glennratty as Rigby’s replacement. KingHaad was eventually traded to NetsGC in late May for fellow first-year point guard Tate and Nick was sent to Hawks Talon GC in late June in exchange for second-year lock Swann.
Charlotte went a combined 5-12 in 5v5 competitions and failed to make it out of group play in both THE TIPOFF and THE TURN. Glennratty put up a team-high 20.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting (39 percent from 3-point range), DJ averaged a double-double (17.9 points and a team-high 12.5 rebounds), Tate was tops in assists (7.2) and Crown had over a steal (1.2) and block (1.2) per outing.
The squad had more success in the new 3v3 format by reaching bracket play of the 2KL SLAM OPEN and SWITCH OPEN, the former featuring an opening-round 3-2 series win of a heavily-favored 76ers GC. Overall, Hornets Venom GT went 10-13 across all 3v3 matchups this season, four of which were on stage. DJ was the team leader in both points (6.9) and rebounds (2.9), while Glennratty averaged 6.1 points and team-high 3.5 assists.
Up next for Hornets Venom GT will be the retainment process, draft pool qualifying tournaments and then eventually, the Season 6 NBA 2K League Draft in early 2023. Knowing that it will have some high draft picks and that turnarounds can happen fast, Hornets Venom GT will have its sights set on returning to the postseason as soon as possible next year.