We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a recap of Year 3 in my ongoing NBA 2K14 MyCAREER.
How enthusiastic was I to dive into Year 3 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER game? Well, it was only at the end of March that I was recapping Year 2, and noting how the adventure continues in the mode. By mid May, I’d played through another 82 games, and tipped off my third postseason. I found myself under the weather with a couple of illnesses and ailments this past month, and playing MyCAREER served as “comfort food”. I was already keenly playing through the third season from the time I posted my last recap, but that did allow the journey to move along even swifter.
Entering Year 3 of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, I had a few goals. I wanted to beat the previous year’s record of 72-10, establishing a new mark for excellence in the regular season. Obviously, I wanted to win a third consecutive championship, and take home another MVP trophy. While I’d already averaged a triple-double in Year 2, ticking off that familiar goal, it was still my aim to post big numbers once again. However, I also had some – shall we say – less selfish goals. I also wanted to get Carmelo Anthony more involved in the offense, and to help Terry Hanson win the Rookie of the Year award. So, how did Year 3 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER ultimately turn out?
First of all, I should note that playing through an entire third season is the furthest I’ve made it into MyCAREER without simulating. I played through two full seasons in NBA 2K19 and part of a third, before retiring to get the Hall of Fame cutscene. I’ve also played through at least one season in a few other games, but this MyCAREER is the most dedicated I’ve been to experiencing a multi-year NBA career. Although there are aspects of later iterations of MyCAREER that I miss, as I’ve noted before, there’s tremendous appeal in NBA 2K14’s mode. The focus on the NBA, and the absence of an online scene with the servers long since deactivated, has been most refreshing.
Of course, I have noticed that there are some repetitive moments. Even though I’ve opted to make peace with Jackson Ellis, I still get the pre-game cutscenes whenever I play the Pistons, only now they’re automatically the friendly ones. A Legend called me out again, and the “Flu Game” cutscene/scenario was also repeated. There’s a benefit to this as both scenarios have Trophies/Achievements attached to them, giving you a second opportunity to attain them without starting a new game. It’d be nice if they could be flagged as completed, though. The same goes for the “failed energy drink” endorsement scenario that is repeated, with no chance of a different outcome.
These repeated cutscenes, along with post-game press conferences that still treat your player as if he’s a rookie achieving certain marks for the first time, demonstrate how those aspects weren’t fully designed with multi-year play in mind. However, for the most part, the story comes from the journey of the NBA season, and the gameplay. The repetitive cutscenes don’t spring up too often, so I could focus on winning games, turning in spectacular performances, and rising to the challenges thrown out by an opponent in an upcoming game. Mind you, by the end of the season, it was pride – and not a need for additional VC – that encouraged me to meet those players’ challenges.
During the course of Year 3 in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, I maxed out at 97 Overall. Back then, not every build could attain an Overall Rating of 99. It was a good idea to change that approach in future games as there’s a feeling of incompleteness in maxing out at 97, but your ratings are unquestionably good enough to dominate. I also maxed out all of my equipped Signature Skills, leaving any further VC earnings to be used to acquire alternate Skills and new animations (or indeed, unlocking additional stuff just for the sake of it). Apart from that, I’m satisfied with my player as he currently stands. But enough meta commentary! How did Year 3 of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER play out?
Although I told myself that I didn’t need to lead the league in the five major statistical categories, having achieved that goal in Year 2, boosted ratings and ingrained habits steered me in that direction early on. At this point, I’m so used to playing in a way that facilitates/chases triple-doubles that I averaged one again, and set new career highs for assists and rebounds in the process. I won the All-Star game at the buzzer. It’s fair to say Year 2 and beyond is for destroying the league, as I averaged 35.8 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 15.8 apg, 5.7 spg, and 2.4 bpg, sweeping the league leaders once again. I also managed to attain 2000+ points, 1000+ assists, and 1000+ rebounds on the year.
As I mentioned, I also wanted to get Carmelo Anthony more touches and points, and turn Terry Hanson – a steal in the 2015 Draft – into a budding star and Rookie of the Year. It didn’t feel right that Melo averaged just 15.1 ppg in the 2015 campaign. In real life, Melo remained a 20+ ppg scorer through to 2017, his last year in New York and fourteenth in the league. While his scoring did drop to around 16 ppg when he left the Knicks for the Thunder, it still felt as though he’d sacrificed too much after joining us in Year 2. Though his morale suggested he was fine with his role, it would be far more realistic if he were the undisputed second option. We still needed my 35.8 ppg!
And so, I looked for Melo whenever I could. Whenever he was moved over to the power forward spot, I took advantage of pick and roll, and pick and pop scenarios. I drew double teams, or drove and kicked it out to him for open threes. I got him the ball in the midrange, and let him go to work. It paid off, as he upped his average to around 19.3 ppg, and had some big scoring nights. Unfortunately, in the 76th game of the season, he went down in the first minute with a hyper-extended knee. His average dropped to an even 19 ppg, and he missed the rest of the regular season and the first game of the Playoffs. His knee remained a subplot from then on, but I’ll get to that.
Meanwhile, Terry Hanson played the entire season, and was a lot of fun. I racked up many assists hitting him for open threes and pull-ups in the midrange, not to mention several fast break dunks and alley-oops. His offensive versatility, touch around the rim, and signature spin move, soon propelled him to the top of the rookie scoring charts; with a little help from his point guard, of course. However, he wasn’t seen as the frontrunner for ROY, as his stats were admittedly one-dimensional. Other first year players, meanwhile, had better numbers across the board. Raising Hanson’s other stats proved too challenging a task, so I hoped scoring and winning would be enough.
Sadly, it wasn’t. While Hanson earned All-Rookie First Team honours, the Rookie of the Year trophy went to the Milwaukee Bucks’ Pat Clemons. Clemons’ 15.9 ppg was second among rookies behind Hanson’s 18.7, but the 6’0″ point guard bested the 6’7″ swingman on the boards, with 3.4 rpg to Terry’s 2.7. He also led all rookies with 5.7 apg and a steal per game. In that regard, my all-around numbers probably didn’t do much to help Hanson’s bid for top rookie honours. On the other hand, Hanson got to be a part of a team that dominated the regular season, and were favourites to win it all for the third consecutive year. Clemons and the Bucks didn’t qualify for the Playoffs.
By Year 3 in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, player movement was beginning to change the face of the league. Dirk Nowitzki was one of the biggest names to move on, joining the Brooklyn Nets and taking Shawn Marion with him. Although the Nets struggled in the regular season, they entered the Playoffs as a confident underdog. The Charlotte Bobcats – whom I swept in the first round in Year 2 – improved to the fourth seed after acquiring Rajon Rondo. Denver, my Finals opponent in Year 2, dropped to the eighth seed in the West after losing Nate Robinson to Miami. Eric Gordon became the main man in New York, helping the Knicks to nab the eighth seed in the East.
We also got in on the action in Year 3, making a few moves. Spencer Hawes, who had reliably filled in for Nerlens Noel when the latter was sidelined for most of 2015, was traded to the Cavaliers for Tristan Thompson. While we won that trade on paper, it was still bittersweet to see Hawes go, and to later play against him. Thompson, who was unhappy with his playing time in Cleveland, remained disgruntled due to being given a similar role with us; a quirk with the rotation logic. Thus, he demanded to be traded again! Despite rumoured deals, none eventuated, and so he finished the year in Philadelphia, apparently grumbling away on the bench as we contended for the title.
Conversely, our trade of Royce White for Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush was a much better deal. Both players were happy in their roles, and made some positive contributions in limited minutes. Rush even stepped into the starting lineup while Melo was out, and performed quite admirably. Considering White spent most of his tenure at the end of the bench, getting two decent (and higher-rated) players for one who barely played was an extremely shrewd deal; trust the process, indeed! I was interested to see what would happen with Thompson in the offseason. It seemed illogical to keep him around, but with a year left on his deal, we ended up doing so.
Speaking of free agency, some notable names languished there throughout Year 3 of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, with seemingly little hope of ever returning to the NBA. The whole reason that Terry Hanson became our starting shooting guard as a rookie is that Jason Richardson wasn’t re-signed, and he sadly didn’t latch on elsewhere. Udonis Haslem was likewise let go by the Heat, which appears to have cut his career much shorter than in real life. The most bizarre story of all is Draymond Green, apparently out of the NBA altogether at the age of 25 and after only three seasons. This alternate reality isn’t being kind to the Warriors in general, but that was quite surprising to see.
Despite the best efforts of the Splash Brothers, the Warriors were in a four team race with the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and Houston Rockets for the seventh and eighth seeds in the West. The Spurs, Nuggets, and Rockets ended up tied with records of 38-44, with tiebreakers awarding the seventh and eighth seeds to the Spurs and Nuggets respectively. San Antonio’s Playoff berth appears to have saved Gregg Popovich’s job, which was apparently in jeopardy due to their struggles. The race in the East was also close, with a few teams in play for the bottom seeds until the final days of the season. As it stands, New York got in over Washington with a tiebreaker.
I actually made an effort to pay more attention to the standings throughout the 2016 season. While I’ve always glanced at them while perusing the statistics and league news, I realised that I’d developed a habit of simply playing who was next without really looking at their record, or how the Playoff Picture was shaping up. I suppose it’s the arrogance and tunnel vision that comes with MyCAREER: you’re so focused on your player, and once you’ve levelled them up and are playing 40 minutes per game, you expect to dominate (or at least defeat) whoever shows up. Paying more attention to the standings and watching other teams jockey for position was quite entertaining.
This might stand as another example of how MyCAREER can shape your habits. When I played Franchise and Dynasty mode in NBA Live, I did pay closer attention to the standings as well as the league leaders. Again, I’d ascribe it to how our focus is on our avatar and controlling what we can control in career mode play. As for our record, after some surprising losses early on, we went on a 45 game winning streak. It was ended by the Pistons, thanks to a huge game from Jackson Ellis. Naturally this stung, but it also felt appropriate, especially since I’ve generally been able to get the better of him so far. We did finish 77-5, setting a new record for regular season wins.
That brings us to the 2016 Playoffs. Entering the postseason, I was confident that we’d be able to make quick work of anyone we faced, beginning with the Knicks. In a way, I was more interested in the potential opponents coming out of the West. The number one seeded Portland Trail Blazers would provide a rematch of the 2014 Finals, where I won a championship as a rookie. There was also historical significance with the real 1977 Finals. The Lakers, now boasting a healthy LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, would obviously be a stimulating matchup as well. Once again there was also a link to real life history there, as the Lakers and 76ers have clashed in the Finals a few times.
We took care of business with a 124-81 win to open the Playoffs, even with Melo still sidelined. He returned in Game 2, and though we didn’t blow the game as wide open, we still won comfortably, 127-110. After crushing them in 134-99 in Game 3, the Knicks made us earn the sweep in a very competitive Game 4, in which they seemed to have an answer for every run we made. Elsewhere, the eighth-seeded Nuggets upset the Blazers, the Lakers swept the Spurs but lost Kobe for a couple of weeks to an Achilles injury, and the Pelicans made quick work of the Grizzlies. The Cavaliers came back from 0-2 against the Nets, while the Bobcats bested the Pistons in seven.
These results not only added to the story of Year 3 in my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, but also the overall alternate history being written. For the second straight year, the Blazers lost in the first round, falling well short of their impressive run in 2014. In their new role as underdogs, the defending Western Conference Champion Nuggets remained a threat to higher seeds. The Lakers, who couldn’t quite catch the Blazers during the regular season, ended up looking like contenders with Portland appearing to be pretenders. And of course, the Bobcats earned a rematch against us – in a second round series this time – thanks to Rondo and Sixth Man of the Year, Kemba Walker.
Another fun subplot of the 2016 Playoffs was Terry Hanson’s continued emergence. Following what felt like a snub for Rookie of the Year, he was Top 10 in points per game through the first round, and played with an aggressiveness that made it seem like he had a point to prove. His willingness and ability to score was most welcome, as Melo went down with another knee injury – a sprain this time – in Game 1 of our second round series with the Bobcats. We took a further hit in Game 2, with Evan Turner ruled out for the year after breaking his ankle. After having relatively good luck with injuries in the regular season, I was worried about who we might lose next.
After sweeping the Bobcats for the second year in a row, I faced the Chicago Bulls in a rematch of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals. I’m always somewhat wistful when I have to face the Bulls in any kind of season play. I’m not about to lose on purpose, but even in the alternate reality of the virtual hardwood, I don’t relish having to break their hearts. Of course, that is the realistic touch of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER; as in real life, players won’t always end up on the teams they were fans of growing up, and may even become a bitter rival. It’s why I’ve elected to play for Chicago in the recent games, and also why I’m considering joining the Bulls if the opportunity arises here.
Even though I’d swept my way through the first two rounds of the Playoffs in Year 3 of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, I wasn’t about to take the Bulls for granted. Melo was still out, and the decision to start Michael Carter-Williams over Brandon Rush meant that we were getting off to slow starts. Jimmy Butler had returned from injury, so they were also at full strength. While I’d developed MyPLAYER into the NBA’s top point guard – and best player, Overall Rating not withstanding – Derrick Rose remained an incredibly tough opponent to cover. I’d need to be careful about running down boards for triple-doubles, or I’d leave him with too many opportunities to rack up easy points.
That recurring slow start with MCW in the starting five made Game 1 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals one of the most challenging contests of the postseason. We trailed 28-19 at the end of the first quarter, and spent much of the game battling back from a double-digit deficit. Hanson had an unusually quiet game, leaving me to carry the scoring load along with Nerlens Noel. Rush hit a three that put us ahead for good in the final minute, as we escaped with a 106-103 victory. I was relieved to see that Melo was cleared to return for Game 2. His scoring acumen would better facilitate a quick start, and keep the defense guessing and gambling with their double teams.
Melo’s return in Game 2 provided the boost we needed to win more comfortably, but disaster struck in the fourth quarter as he tore his MCL, putting an end to his season. As frustrating as it was, it was a realistic progression from hyperextension to sprain to tear. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and was clearly going to have an impact on Year 4 as well. In the meantime, we had a challenge we needed to rise to. The Bulls continued to take advantage of our slow starts with Carter-Williams in the lineup, but we completed the sweep with double-digit wins to advance to the NBA Finals for the third year in a row. There, a surprising Western Conference Champion awaited us.
With the Blazers flaming out in the first round and the Lakers sweeping their way to the Conference Finals, a showdown with Kobe and LeBron appeared to be inevitable. However, the fifth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves had other plans. The series was tied after the teams split wins in Los Angeles, only for the Lakers to go up 3-1. Even with Ricky Rubio sidelined and unable to return during the series, the Timberwolves stormed back over the next three games, edging out the Lakers with a 101-99 victory in Game 7 to complete the comeback and advance to their first NBA Finals. It was not the result I was expecting to see upon concluding my series with the Chicago Bulls!
Suffice to say, I had mixed feelings about that result. A clash with LeBron and Kobe was far more exciting on paper than the overachieving roster the Timberwolves were fielding. The aforementioned real history between the 76ers and Lakers also made it a more interesting matchup by default. Even without Melo, I anticipated a fairly easy final road to a threepeat. On the other hand, it undoubtedly made for a surprising twist as the story of Year 3 drew to a close. There was intrigue in an underdog having such a successful run through the West, including a 3-1 comeback to upset the favourites. I wondered if they’d prove to be a tougher opponent than they appeared to be on paper.
Minnesota indeed came out fighting like a determined underdog in Game 1, though as the game progressed, it was clear Carter-Williams’ presence had had its usual effect early on. The second half turned into a complete blowout, as I tallied a quadruple-double with 34 points, 31 assists, 17 rebounds, and 13 steals in the 144-95 victory. To add injury to insult, Kevin Martin strained his MCL and was hobbled for the rest of the series, while rookie Tony Goodrich went down with a knee injury. Kevin Love was a non-factor in Game 1, scoring seven points and grabbing two rebounds in just 24 minutes of action. This left me feeling extremely confident heading into Game 2.
The Timberwolves came out strong once again however, with Kevin Love looking determined to atone for his subpar performance in Game 1. He had 24 points and four rebounds in the first half alone, playing far more assertively as Minnesota trailed 56-48 after two. He cooled off in the second half and finished with 29 points, but J.J. Barea stepped up, scoring 26 including six three-pointers. 17 threes-pointers by the Timberwolves kept them in the game and within striking distance of making a run, even though we prevailed 122-100. Additionally, after taking care of the ball in Game 1, I had eight turnovers in Game 2. Still, we were two wins away from the threepeat.
Returning home for Game 3 failed to energise the Timberwolves, as we raced out to an 8-0 start, led 35-13 after the first quarter, and never looked back. The pluckiness that they’d exhibited in stretches during the first two games was completely absent, as we cruised to a 136-80 victory. Following my ballhandling struggles in Game 2, I managed to play 41 minutes in Game 3 without committing a turnover. I predicted that we wouldn’t face much resistance in Game 4, even with Ricky Rubio cleared to play at last. It was shaping up to be the most lopsided Finals series in league history, demonstrating that exciting upsets do have their downsides as the Playoffs roll on.
Rubio’s return did seem to inspire the Timberwolves somewhat, and Game 4 wasn’t the complete walkover that Game 3 had been. It was academic by the third quarter though, and in the waning seconds, I ran out the clock on a 127-110 win to secure a threepeat. If that recap sounds bland and subdued, it’s because it was my second time playing Game 4, with the first turning into a dogfight that I only led by two heading into the fourth. Unfortunately, NBA 2K14 unexpectedly crashed, forcing me to replay it. Still, in the virtual reality that counted, I took care of business with another perfect run through the postseason, ending Year 3 of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER in triumph.
Even though a more formidable and star-studded opponent might’ve made for a more exciting finale, I still enjoyed the journey of the 2016 season immensely. The aim had been domination as a team and further steps towards career statistical goals, and I’d achieved that. The arrival of Terry Hanson added a new wrinkle to the experience, and though I failed to get him the Rookie of the Year trophy, he was a name to keep an eye on. A couple of interesting trades worked out for our roster, freshening things up. The stories that unfolded through gameplay, injuries, simulated results for the other 29 teams, and chasing personal goals, kept me engaged through another season.
That of course brings us to Year 4 – the 2017 campaign – and it has already set the table with some intriguing and challenging scenarios. Melo is still expected to miss 4-6 months with his torn MCL. The projected lineup is the same one we ran with for most of the 2016 Playoffs: Nerlens Noel, Thaddeus Young, Terry Hanson, Michael Carter-Williams, and me sliding over to shooting guard. I don’t really enjoy playing alongside MCW and ceding ballhandling duties, so it remains to be seen how it will work out. Will my patience run thin, forcing me to ask for a trade, or perhaps force MCW out of Philadelphia? Am I willing to take a PR hit to be happier on the court?
The offseason has, as always, resulted in some familiar faces going to new places. Evan Turner, a key reserve these past three years, opted to join the Rockets. As with Spencer Hawes on the Cavaliers, it’ll be a bittersweet change of pace to face him as opponent after winning titles alongside him. Elsewhere, the Celtics signed Brandon Jennings, significantly improving their rotation at point guard. J.J. Hickson joined the Clippers, where he’ll battle DeAndre Jordan to start in the middle. DeMar DeRozan left the Raptors of his own accord, signing with the Grizzlies. Danny Granger, still in the league and a serviceable player, signed with Miami. Monta Ellis went to the Nets.
There are interesting differences elsewhere, too. Vince Carter appears to have gone unsigned – if he hasn’t retired – leaving the league much earlier than in real life. Ben Gordon is still in the NBA with the Pelicans, while Greg Oden’s comeback with the Heat has extended into the 2017 season. Kobe Bryant didn’t call it a day, and may well stick around long enough to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record, as Robert Horry once predicted. Tim Duncan has retired, leaving no doubt that it’s Kawhi Leonard’s team…if he sticks around. Amar’e Stoudemire is still active and plays for the Knicks, while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh remain a duo in Miami.
Year 4 could potentially be a very different, interesting, challenging, and hopefully overall fun season. It has a tough act to follow, as Year 3 in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER was a satisfying journey, which only increased my enthusiasm for the mode. Although it will likely be necessary to reach the 2022 season – at least anytime soon – I’m still not ready to simulate chunks of the year with the Play Next Key Game function. I’m taking the long road in playing through a full NBA career, and I want to savour that experience. Hopefully each season brings its own storylines and fun moments, but if a few of them turn out like Year 3 in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, I won’t be disappointed.