The first of 13 Wizards simulations will air Saturday at 7 p.m., when Washington was scheduled to host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks at Capital One Arena. Instead, computer-controlled Bradley Beal will look to lead an upset against computer-controlled Milwaukee. The matchups will be televised on NBC Sports Washington and streamed on its authenticated platforms, as well as on MonumentalSportsNetwork.com and its available apps.
The first of seven Capitals simulations will debut Tuesday, when Washington was scheduled to face the St. Louis Blues in a matchup of the past two Stanley Cup champions.
The Wizards’ simulations will feature all of the same audio and video components of NBA 2K20′s gameplay, including the voice of play-by-play man Kevin Harlan. NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards experts also will be featured during the broadcast. Don’t expect to see virtual John Wall return to the court alongside Beal on Saturday; these simulations will feature updated rosters. The presentation for the Capitals’ simulations will feature familiar aspects of NHL 20 gameplay, along with additional commentary from NBC Sports Washington’s Capitals analysts. NBC Sports Washington has yet to decide whether it will also simulate the playoffs.
“If the video game version of Bradley Beal and Alex Ovechkin live up to their real-life counterparts, fans should be in for a fun experience,” Damon Phillips, NBC Sports Washington’s general manager, said in a statement.
Like every sports network, NBC Sports Washington has been forced to rethink its programming since the coronavirus ground the sports world to a halt. On March 12, the day the NHL paused its season, the network filled the hours that would have otherwise been dedicated to the Capitals-Red Wings game with highlights of every one of Alex Ovechkin’s goals on his march to 700. With “D.C. Sports Live” among several regular studio shows that have been put on indefinite hiatus, NBC Sports Washington will air a replay of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup championship parade Friday night.
The Phoenix Suns were among the first NBA teams to turn to NBA 2K20 to fill the void after the season was suspended, announcing that they would play the remaining of their regular season games virtually and stream them on Twitch. Last Friday, Antonio “UniversalPhenom” Saldivar, who played in the NBA 2K League, represented the Suns in an online game against the Dallas Mavericks, who were controlled by fellow esports pro Lawrence “Buddy” Norman. The matchup topped 12,000 concurrent viewers at its peak. On Wednesday, Suns reserve rookie guard and former Virginia star Ty Jerome took the controls, going head-to-head with Minnesota Timberwolves’ second-year forward Josh Okogie. Jerome cruised to a 30-point win behind 29 points from virtual Devin Booker.
“We know that fans are as disappointed as we are to not be able to watch our favorite teams on a nightly basis,” Zach Leonsis, senior VP of strategic initiatives for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement. “We hope that these fun and engaging video game simulations will entertain our fans and help provide a greater sense of normalcy during these challenging times. We hope that when people tune in and watch these simulated games, they will be able to enjoy some friendly competitive play from the comforts of their own home.”
Beal has been spending quite a bit of time playing video games since the season was suspended. Perhaps he will tune in Saturday to see whether his virtual self can replicate the 55 points he scored against the Bucks last month, back when fans could still find enjoyment by watching other actual humans run up and down a court.
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