Impact Basketball, a training facility on the outskirts of the Las Vegas strip, has organized what is being dubbed the "Lockout League" by some – a series of exhibition games involving only NBA players – set to last two weeks. The league kicked off on Monday, which means for the past few days I've had the pleasure of watching live basketball involving NBA players – a sight for sore eyes amidst the current lockout.
The atmosphere is a little like the Summer League annually held in Las Vegas, minus the spirt squads, halftime shows, and PA announcers. Four five-on-five games are played each day, involving four eight minute quarters, referees, no coaches, a rare substitution or timeout, a brief halftime, and a whole lot of trash talk.
Though the "Lockout League" lacks a star of Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant's caliber, there is definitely legitimate NBA talent involved. Some notable participants include: Wes Matthews, J.J. Hickson, Marreese Speights, John Wall, JaVale McGee, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Allen, Kyle Lowry, Jared Dudley, Jermaine O'Neal, Demar Derozan, Corey Maggette and Rashard Lewis.
As is the case in most pick-up basketball games, the defense is far from tenacious, but there are moments where players' pride becomes involved and the defensive intensity picks up. During the first game at Impact this morning, rookie guard Josh Selby was abusing Mo Williams and others off the dribble en route to his 26 points. When the fourth quarter hit and the game was close, notorious defensive stopper Tony Allen took it upon himself to check the rookie, which produced some great one-on-one battles between the two during the final few possessions of the game.
With the lack of coaching and familiarity between the players I expected much sloppiness during the games, but they have flowed surprisingly smooth, and there's a whole lot more floor spacing then I expected.
Games are open to the public, but as you can see by this picture posted by Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge and CBS Sports fame, there are still great seats available.
Hit the jump for a bunch of random sights and sounds from the first three days of Impact, along with an update on Marreese Speights and Sixers hopeful Xavier Silas.
Random Sights and Sounds
- Mike Tyson was there and is supposedly organizing a celebrity game for Friday involving P.Diddy and 50 Cent.
- Melvin Ely got poked in the eye, went to the sideline with someone who looked like a trainer, then a few minutes later appeared to punch an entire Gatorade cooler filled with ice and Gatorade to the ground mid-game. Mo Williams, who was still playing, smiled and screamed something to the effect of "that's how we do it!".
- Josh Selby went through pre-game warm ups in sweatpants, a white t-shirt, a watch, a backwards hat, and a stuffed red backpack, which I found hilarious.
- I forget the two players involved, but one of the players on defense began counting down from three like the shot clock was running out, forcing the player with the ball to shoot a wild shot, thinking the time was running out. Everyone started cracking up when they realized what had happened.
- The constant trash talk and banter that goes on between the players during the games is amazing. The gym is so quiet that everyone in the building can hear it. There's not much I can repeat on here, so use your imagination. Sebastian Telfair, Melvin Ely, Dahntay Jones, Jordan Crawford and Tony Allen usually have the most to say.
- Before his first game I asked a player if he knew any of the players on his team, and he only knew one, which I found interesting.
- Damon Jones enjoys saying "that's off" or "short" when he shoots the ball.