NBA players taking game to Las Vegas in face of lockout

With the NBA’s lockout of its players threatening the 2011-12 season, some of the league’s top stars are coming to Las Vegas to work on their game. About 50 players will compete in a two-week league at the Impact Basketball training facility on East Sunset Road starting Sept. 12, and play could continue for longer if the lockout drags on.

The Vegas league is an extension of the training sessions already conducted by Impact Basketball owner Joe Abunassar, who trains about 25 NBA players here during the offseason, including Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, John Wall and Tayshaun Prince. The league will be restricted to players with professional experience or incoming rookies, and will use NBA rules such as a 24-second shot clock.

“This is an opportunity for them to play high-levelcompetition, stay in shape and do it in a fun atmosphere,” Abunassar says. “And as a trainer, I’m looking for them to get better, as well. It’ll be entertaining, but it will be effective and a really good service to the players.”

While plans, such as liability issues, are still being finalized for the league, Abunassar projects the league to have eight teams of seven or eight players, with games starting each day about 2 p.m., following morning workouts, and being played into the evening. With the capacity for about 1,000 fans, Abunassar hopes to make the games accessible to the public, with any admission costs going to charity.

Players won’t be paid for participating in the league, which has received the OK of the NBA Players Association, and instead will have to pay an entry fee to play if they aren’t already paying Abunassar for his training services.

Abunassar hopes to have most everything finalized this week, with players given a Sept. 2 deadline for committing to the league. If more players than desired apply to play in the league, Abunassar says he will turn some away to keep things more manageable.

Even if the lockout ends soon, the players wouldn’t have to report to camp until after the Vegas league ends. And Abunassar says there is a chance the league could be expanded beyond two weeks if the lockout continues.

“I think we could run sessions as long as we wanted,” he says. “The gym is here; the players are here. We’ll see how the first two weeks go, and we can extend it as long as guys want to stay and want to play. I think when they experience the quality of games that are going to be here, they’re going to want to come back here.”

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