NBA AM: New League in Las Vegas
The NBA’s players and owners have made little progress toward ending the lockout, but basketball will still return in a matter of weeks. That’s because a new, high-profile league is forming in Las Vegas.
Impact Basketball, one of the premier basketball training sites in the world, will launch their own league in September. Unlike this summer’s popular pro-am leagues that featured a few NBA players on each roster, the teams competing in Impact’s league will be made up solely of professionals. Nearly 70 NBA players will compete in the league and plenty of stars will participate.
Rosters are still being assembled, but Impact has relationships with many notable players, which means this league has the potential to be very entertaining.
Chauncey Billups, John Wall, Paul Pierce, Al Harrington, Corey Maggette, Kyle Lowry, Paul George, J.J. Hickson, Austin Daye, Jared Dudley, Dahntay Jones, Jermaine O’Neal, Craig Brackins, Marreese Speights, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Manny Harris are among the players that have worked out at Impact’s two locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles this summer.
They might play in the league, along with other veterans that have been training at Impact for years such as Kevin Garnett, Rudy Gay, Baron Davis, Rajon Rondo, Tayshaun Prince, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans, Mo Williams, Josh Smith, Ron Artest, Yi Jianlian, Glen Davis, Sebastian Telfair, Al Thornton and many others.
Some of the rookies that worked out in Las Vegas during the pre-draft process could also return including Alec Burks, Kawhi Leonard, Jordan Williams, Josh Selby, Darius Morris, Isaiah Thomas, Malcolm Lee, Greg Smith, Xavier Silas and Jon Diebler.
Other players who haven’t trained at Impact in the past will also be invited to compete. Many players have already started communicating with their teammates and friends around the NBA, which means entire NBA squads could play if they so desire. With so many teams meeting up for workouts and minicamps this summer, this league could be a way for teammates to stay sharp and on the same page.
Joe Abunassar, the founder and head trainer of Impact Basketball, confirmed that the league will kick off in mid-September, likely during the week following Labor Day. Two games will be played each day and the league is expected to last at least two weeks long. There is a possibility that the games will be streamed online.
“It will start in September, with two games a day,” Jared Dudley told HOOPSWORLD. “There will be a blend of all-stars, veterans and rookies. We’ll play by NBA rules – have a 24-second shot clock and everything. You heard of the Drew League and Goodman League, but the difference with this league is that it’s not a pro-am. There will just be NBA pros. It really gets guys ready for the NBA season. I’m excited every summer because at Impact, you only can get better. Now, the games are there to put what you learn into action on the court.”
The NBA isn’t on pace to start their season on time, but leagues like this will give fans their basketball fix and make the wait much easier to handle.
Watson Loving Chicago: Last season, C.J. Watson made the playoffs for the first time in his career. However, advancing to the postseason with the Chicago Bulls wasn’t enough for Watson. The point guard was disappointed with the team’s loss to the Miami Heat and can’t wait to make another run next season.
“It was a fun experience,” Watson told HOOPSWORLD. “I think I can speak for everyone on our team saying that we felt the season ended a little bit early for us. We thought we should have been playing in the Finals, but it didn’t happen. It was a great year though.”
“I liked being back on the East coast and getting used to the new system and teammates too,” he added. “It was really nice and it didn’t take me long at all to feel comfortable with the team.”
The Bulls’ loss in the Eastern Conference Finals has motivated the team this summer. All of the players are working hard individually and they may hold a team minicamp in the next few months, depending on the status of the new collective bargaining agreement.
“We’re very motivated,” Watson said. “Everyone has a chip on their shoulder. We saw how far we could get and how good we could be if we all put everything we have into it. Next year, I think we’re going to come out more focused, with a chip on our shoulder, and get the job done instead of watching at home like this time.”
“We’re just waiting to see what happens with the lockout. Maybe in September or October, if we’re still locked out and not in training camp, we may get together and do something. For now, we’re all just working on our own games, trying to get better and preparing like the season is going to start on time,” he added.
Chicago’s roster has an average age of 26 years old, meaning the best is yet to come for this team. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer are all 26 years old or younger. The general consensus among the Bulls is that they’ll continue to improve while other elite teams in the Eastern Conference decline.
“I think we have a lot of potential,” Watson said. “This was our first year with a bunch of new players so the second year should be even better too. Hopefully we can keep everyone healthy because we had some key injuries last year to Booz and Jo. If we can come out healthy, more aggressive and play with a chip on our shoulder then we’ll be good.”
Watson is working out in his hometown of Las Vegas, where he’ll spend the majority of his summer.
“I’m working out here in Vegas with my trainer,” Watson said. “I’m trying to improve my jump shot, ball handling and pick-and-roll plays. I’m just working on everything, everyday.”
The 27-year-old is also giving back to his community. On August 27, he’ll hold a back to school event for the Boys and Girls Club of Las Vegas. Backpacks with school supplies will be handed out and kids will be able to enjoy their last few days of summer.
“It’s a back to school event for the kids and the community,” Watson said. “We’ll be giving out free backpacks and I’ll be signing autographs. There’s going to be a magician there and kids can get their faces painted. It’s a little event for kids to have a fun day before school starts and get some free supplies.”
Watson is being productive with his time, but he can’t wait for next season to start. He has his first playoff appearance under his belt, but now he wants more.
NBA Players Turn to Acting: The NBA lockout provides players with plenty of free time, which allows them to try new things that they wouldn’t have been able to do in a normal offseason. For a lot of NBA players, that means trying their hands at acting. A number of notable NBA players will be appearing on a television or movie screen in the near future:
• Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh will play themselves in cameo guest appearances on an upcoming episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In the episode – titled “Personal Fouls” – a youth basketball coach is under suspicion as a sexual predator. Anthony and Bosh will appear in the opening scene and episode climax. The episode will air on September 28 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
• Kevin Durant is on the verge of finalizing a deal to star in a basketball-themed major motion picture for the studio Warner Brothers, the Oklahoman reports. Filming is expected to begin in mid-September.
• Amar’e Stoudemire is also working on a number of projects, which isn’t nearly as surprising considering he’s represented by Happy Walters, who is not only an agent but also a movie producer and music supervisor. Stoudemire has already made guest appearances in a number of movies and television shows.
• Ron Artest is not only in talks to play in Europe during the lockout, he’s also hoping to act after signing abroad. Artest has been negotiating with the England-based Cheshire Jets, but he has also expressed interest in the entertainment industry. He has performed a number of comedy shows in Los Angeles, and he hopes to act or put on shows while overseas as well.
• Larry Sanders, who is also represented by Walters, is taking acting classes this summer. His debut performance will be in a Terrence Howard movie, in which he makes a guest appearance. He filmed the role recently, and the movie is expected to finish production soon.
• Dwight Howard won’t be physically appearing in any projects, but he has lent his voice to the Disney cartoon “Kick Buttowski.” On the show, Howard plays a celebrity named Rock Callahan. Howard may pursue other projects if the lockout shortens the season.