In the tiny Impact Basketball gymnasium, where a collection of NBA players have gathered to while away the league’s labor impasse with organized pickup games, there were no replays, or video screens or any other trappings of a real live professional basketball game. (via Jeff McDonald, Express-News)
There weren’t even enough fans — just a couple dozen on this particular Wednesday afternoon — to constitute a crowd.
“This isn’t the NBA,” says Joe Abunassar, the Las Vegas-based trainer who dreamed up what has come to be informally known as “The Lockout League.” “But this is as close as these players are going to get for now.”
As the NBA’s summer of discontent stretches toward fall, jobless players have found a haphazard basketball oasis at Abunassar’s facility a stone’s throw from the famed Las Vegas strip.
By the time the two-week Impact Competitive Basketball series ends Friday, organizers say at least 75 NBA players will have participated, many of them Abunassar clients. Included on that list are Spurs guard James Anderson and rookie small forward Kawhi Leonard, the 15th pick in the June draft.
“Any time you can get a lot of guys like this together and get some good run in, it’s helpful,” Anderson said.
For players, the draw of Abunassar’s event was simple: Unlike the various pro-am leagues around the country, the Lockout League is open only to NBA players.
“There’s no other place they can go to play against 35, 50 NBA guys on a daily basis,” Abunassar said.
A former college assistant whose list of training clients has included All-Stars such as Chauncey Billups and Kevin Garnett, Abunassar didn’t set out to become a key figure in the NBA’s ongoing labor imbroglio.
It just sort of worked out that way.
What is happening this month at the Impact facility in Vegas is simply a super-sized version of what happens there every day. Players train in the morning, then play 5-on-5 games in the afternoon.
The NBA lockout just provided Abunassar with a deeper talent pool from which to fill out his post-lunch rosters.
“It’s the same concept we’ve been doing for 15 years,” he said. “Now we’ve just invited more people and made it kind of an event.”
In the court of public opinion, it’s difficult to say which side of the NBA’s labor dispute benefits most from the Lockout League.
Players can point to high turnout as evidence they just want to play, even if they have to pay their own way to Vegas to do so.
“We love playing the game,” said Washington guard John Wall, last season’s Rookie of the Year runner-up and one of the headliners at Impact. “It’s tough during the lockout, but we’re just trying to get better and work on our game.”
Read the complete article at San Antonio Express-News.