How to make REC not suck or at least suck less
Let pro-am get a better reward than REC. More Rep/VC/Badge/MT progress than REC. Literally, it's that simple. that's it.
Why should I sweat it if it doesn't do me any more good and usually takes longer to find the game? So we go back to NBA2king. There's little reason to play pro-am other than wanting to play in your own jersey - which is cool - but it doesn't do anything good in the game.
Get 1.75x rep/progress/VC for the pro-am winning team. Make pro-am exclusive animations. Give the player base some incentive to play it and they will.
I play with my friends, a mix of recreational and pro-am depending on the vibe and squad. We don't do zone defenses or any cheese 5-out offense to keep everyone at least having fun, and we'll run into other 5-stacks doing those things on a regular basis. It doesn't bother me that we usually win, but I understand how frustrating it is for new/young/casual players trying to get into the game.
Literally, all 2k has to do is increase the reward by 50% and the pros will be active again. Why would anyone want to play matches, stress, and sweat when they can stomp 100-20 at will and get the same - in some cases better (because blowout = crazy stat line) reward?
It's common sense and not pulling a dollar out of the T2's pocket. It would be a completely unprofitable change to the game, and it would make every level better for players...but that's probably why it couldn't be done. Have you paid for NBA 2K23 MT?