MIAMI — If this was the NCAA Tournament, Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. would stand as the ultimate underdog story.
But it isn’t. It isn’t even real. But it’s also about all we have at the moment.
So there was Jones on Friday night, featured in ESPN’s first broadcast of the “NBA 2K Players Tournament,” playing as the No. 16 seed in the field, knocking off No. 1 seed Kevin Durant, 78-62.
While the seedings for the NBA 2K20 gameplay tournament were determined by ratings based on actual on-court abilities, Jones got the better of Durant on the sticks in the single-elimination game.
Jones chose the Milwaukee Bucks as his opening team to utilize in the tournament, an interesting choice considering the Heat appear to be positioning themselves to make a potential run at Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021 NBA free agency.
Jones then utilized Antetokounmpo to the tune of 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, in holding off the Los Angeles Clippers’ video team used by Durant.
The Heat were among Jones’ team options, with that possibility still potentially in play, no longer able to utilize the Bucks in the tournament. Durant bypassed utilizing either his current team, the Brooklyn Nets, or his previous team, the Golden State Warriors.
The opening two rounds of the event are single elimination, with Jones next to play the winner of the game between Clippers center Montrezl Harrell and Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis.
“I scored it well, but I couldn’t stop nothing,” said Durant, with play conducted in isolation from each players’ home.
Durant added, “Good luck the rest of the tournament, man.”
The tournament is being contested on the Xbox One platform. The winner will select a charity beneficiary to receive a $100,000 donation from 2K, the NBA and the NBPA in support of ongoing new coronavirus relief efforts.
The headset interaction between the two was part of the broadcast, with Durant at one point mentioning the possibility of the NBA season eventually being played to conclusion in Las Vegas.
“That would be dope,” said Jones, who played at UNLV. “That’s my stomping ground. That’s where I went to school.”
Jones was behind 17-16 at the end of the opening period, then led 35-31 at halftime and 59-44 after three quarters.
Jones’ remaining team choices from his pre-selected eight teams are the Heat, Boston Celtics, Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.
Of being part of the event, Jones said, “It’s just good being able to go back and just have fun again.”
Just as he offered bravado in advance of winning the Feb. 15 dunk contest during All-Star Weekend, he expressed similar confidence Friday.
“I don’t like to brag about my game,” he said, “but I’m pretty good a 2K. I play 2K a lot.”
Jones’ invitation came through an interaction with tournament host Ronnie 2K, the digital marketing director at 2K Sports.
“I was just on Instagram one day and I saw Ronnie 2K,” Jones said. “He had DM’d me and was talking to me about the situation that they had going on, they were thinking about a 2K tournament and everything and he knows I play.
“I told him it was a great idea, because you get to have the players out there interacting with each other again, especially, like I said, with this point in time going on. It’s something that’s going to be good for everybody, just to be able to watch us doing something, not just us being at the house.
“They get to see us playing on 2K, playing video games, being kids, and just enjoying our times.”
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